David Pankhurst has a very interesting open source project, The Audrey Braille Display, which aims to lower the cost of braille displays. A braille display allows blind people to read output from a computer. Traditional displays cost several thousand dollars while this project is aiming for displays costing only hundreds of dollars. This is accomplished by using a design with only 2 stepper motors which drive sliding rods with braille dot patterns on them. One motor selects a character position and the other moves the rod to the correct dots to make the character.
The result is a low cost Braille display – in fact, I estimate a 40 character display can be made for under $200, significantly less than the multi-thousand dollar devices out there today. And while it won’t have all the features of the top of the line model, it will enable those who could never afford a Braille display to actually have one of their own.
It is always nice to see new open source designs that aim to lower the cost of technology and allow more people access to information.