Blitab is an Android tablet combined with a smart Braille surface. As an Android tablet, it has Wi-fi, Bluetooth and can run Android Apps. The upper portion of Blitab is a multi-line braille display with 14 rows each with 23 6-dot braille cells. The bottom portion of the tablet has an Android screen; the Home screen displays a variety of Android apps. Open an app to read a book, type an email, and perform tasks just like you would on an Android device. According to Blitab's website, Blitab also supports all the accessibility features in iOS, such as VoiceOver.
What does a multi-line braille device mean for students?
Currently, braille devices that are paired with tablets, smartphones and computers have limited number of braille cells and are only in a singular line. Materials read on the braille display are not formatted in the traditional paragraph formation; instead, students press a key that 'pans' to the next set of braille cells. Many students - especially young students - often use an 18 cell braille display, meaning that only 18 characters can be viewed at a time. This means that the student typically has to pan just to read a complete sentence on the braille display.
- Textbook Images: A powerful feature of a multi-lined braille device is the ability to instantly convert visual images into simple tactile images. Imagine a digital textbook - with a multi-line braille display, students would have instant access to images in the textbook! In the photo below, two young boys are looking at the visual image of the human brain (bottom half of the Blitab tablet) while touching a similar tactile image (top half of the Blitab tablet). Note: The colorful visual picture has more details, including intricate smaller pieces that make up the lower half of the brain. The tactile picture depicts the same side view outline of the human head (neck, chin, nose, etc.) with a solid area of brain matter (top part of the brain) with space and different pattern to indicate that the lower half of the brain is different than the upper half, and 'lines' indicating the brain stem going between the brain and down the neck. With this digital tactile diagram, if would be tactually overwhelming if all of the brain details were included.
- Orientation and Mobility: Maps are another practical use a multi-line braille display. This photo displays a complex map of the roads around the Eiffel Tower in Google Maps - again, the bottom half of the device shows the visual map. The top half of the device displays the tactile version of this map. Consider the Orientation and Mobility possibilities with instantaneous tactile road maps!
Math: Just imagine using a multi-line braille tablet for complex, multi-line braille math equations!
Reading: Read a document - or a whole book - in braille on the multi-line braille display. You can also choose to pair tactile reading with VoiceOver. The tablet displays the braille on the top portion of the device and the visual text on the bottom half, making it easy for teachers, parents or peers to follow along.
Writing: The Blitab uses an on-screen 8-key braille input similar to most braille devices (plus space bar). The top half of the tablet displays the document in braille. The lower half of the tablet has the text in print and the braille input screen below the printed text.
Blitab's braille display uses small bubbles to create the braille. This revolutionary technology is cost effective. Blitab will soon be available to the public with the anticipated retail price of $500. To pre-order, visit Blitab's website.