Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have created reprogrammable Braille that could eliminate the need for unique pages without using a braille display. It’s described as “a framework to encode memory, in the form of Braille-like dimples and bumps, onto a blank, lattice-free material.” This material is as dynamic as the words it can contain, changing as needed to reflect new text.
“We show how an otherwise featureless curved elastic shell, when loaded appropriately, can store elastic bits (e-bits) that can be written and erased at will anywhere along the shell,” said L. Mahadevan, the Lola England de Valpine professor of applied mathematics at SEAS and senior author of the study. “This system could serve as the basis for small-scale mechanical memories.”
The researchers compressed a thin, curved elastic shell using forces on each end, and then made indents with a basic stylus (similar to how you print a conventional braille book). Once you remove the compression, the shell ‘remembers’ the indents. You can erase them just by stretching the shell. It sounds simple, but it’s incredibly flexible: in its tests, Harvard could control the number, position and chronological order of the indents. There’s no lattice holding it up, and it works with everything from conventional paper to super-thin graphene.
“Simple experiments with cylindrical and spherical shells show that we can control the number, location, and the temporal order of these dimples which can be written and erased at will,” Mahadevan added. “This paper is a first step in showing that we can store memories. The next step is to ask if we can actually compute with them.”
Even though the researchers could store memories in the shells, they couldn’t perform computing tasks with them. You’d need a more sophisticated platform to control page changes. If that happens, though, braille books could be considerably more accessible.
Source: Harvard SEAS