Tablet Creates Touchable Relief Maps to Guide the Visually Impaired

EPFL researchers have created a tablet to help people with a visual impairment find their way around unfamiliar places. The lightweight and reconfigurable touchscreen tablet very quickly forms shapes and relief maps that users can then explore with their fingers. The tablet has 192 tiny magnetized buttons that can move up and down in a few milliseconds, almost instantaneously creating patterns like the layout of a building or a street. Users can also zoom in on a particular part of a map, and the actuators are fast enough to make individual buttons vibrate. Each button contains a tiny magnet placed between two coils and two thin layers of steel. The system requires no power to keep the button in place, keeping energy consumption to a minimum, and also comes equipped with Bluetooth.