Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Good Vibrations

A few weeks ago, I asked my geeky and brilliant son to invent a way for deaf people to play a piano and to ‘hear’ what they were playing. I suggested that he have each of the piano’s 88 keys emit a slightly different vibration which could be felt by the person who was deaf. The piano music would sound like it always does to people who are listening, but to the Deaf person, the music could also be ‘heard’ in the form of the key vibrations.

He said he wasn’t an inventor and then asked what was for dinner.

This week, however, news stories about two exciting technology advances for people who are deaf and blind appeared via my google alerts, and they both reminded me of the request I made to my son.

The first, Picking Up A Good Vibration, tells of researchers from MIT’s Sensory Communication Group who are designing new tactile devices that convert sound waves into vibrations so users can ‘feel’ words. This project was inspired by Tadoma, a method used very infrequently for people who are deafblind, and the subject of my post titled, Can You Feel Me Now?.

The second article, titled “Researchers develop braille for vibrating touchscreen devices”, talks about researchers in Finland who are working on a way to have a raised dot in a Braille cell emit a single intense vibration and missing dots to emit a longer, less intense vibration. That Braille cell could then be ‘read’ through touch, a touch screen on a computer for instance.

And all this is leading me back to my son tonight for some more talk about that piano!!

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