The Future, a Thimbleful at a Time

Wirelessly connected to an iPhone, the Thimble would be an interface of parts: scanner, translator, voice-activated command module… perhaps the most enticing application is as a sort of Braille ebook reader—a prospect charismatic enough to make me want to learn to read Braille.

Alas, a refreshable haptic Braille display remains a holy grail of sorts; attempts to create readable Braille outputs using vibrating dots or electrical pulses or tactile illusions remain evocatively fictional. Another concept device, the Haptic Braille, which won a Red Dot Award for design, would incorporate a Braille readout in a mouselike device; scanning text and translating it as a series of Braille impulses rendered on the device’s soft, biodegradable surface.

Of course, any good concept device should incorporate biodegradable material—or Kryptonite, or Unobtanium—wherever possible. There’s a whole growing rhetoric unique to design fiction, a poetics compounded of scifi, aesthetics, and marketing pitch; it makes me wonder what university will be the first to offer an MFA in concept-video production.

On the other hand, it’s a marvelous techno-cultural impulse to see the differently-abled—the blind, the deaf, the whole spectrum of what conventionally gets called disability—as avatars of compelling sensory and kinesthetic worlds instead of objects of revulsion and pity. At its worst, such curiosity focuses on sensuous exotica; at its best, it gives birth to transformational technologies.

[via Core77]

4 comments

  1. Thanks for this. Though I’ve been trying to discern just what you mean by the “worst” examples of “sensuous exotica”?

  2. Thanks, Sara—and sorry about that “sensuous exotica” toss-off; I should try not to be so gnomic. What I had in mind was the worry that makers of design fiction and futurists might slip into an idealization of the differently abled in a way that’s as objectifying and distancing as the paternalism and revulsion of old. Does that make sense?

  3. Very nice info, thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Amazing work… Truly transformational. The designers and developers of this should be very proud of their work and how it could improve peoples lives. My 6 year old niecewas born sighted but lost her site to retinal blastoma and this news makes me very optimistic for her future and her ability to interact fully in society!

    Creative design can really change peoples lives. Great work!

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