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Surprising Science

As the World Becomes More Visual, Technology for the Blind Expands

It may butcher the English language at times, replacing simple words with a series of abbreviations, but for better or for worse the internet and mobile technology have reintroduced literary media to the masses. With talk of Apple’s new iPad perhaps saving print publishing, interacting with your line of sight may have never been more important. But even while technology has changed how we interact with what we see, it has also revolutionized the lives of those without sight.

For some time, any discussion of the blind has eventually dealt with the vital role of music. With a number of schools encouraging the cultivation of that musical ear and even more academics examining the role of music among the blind, the issue of technology hasn’t really been raised. But the new digital revolution has also directly influenced this aural world with Caketalking. The new software bundle, which has already been put to good use by musician Raul Midon, allows blind musicians to record and mix their own songs.  With technology revolutionizing this one area of blind culture, what other contributions are being made to a group for whom new media hasn’t always been accessible?

Google has already taken part in bringing the Web to the blind, recently contributing to work at the University of Manchester on a prototype screen reader that would allow the blind to navigate online. This comes on the heels of groundbreaking work from T.V. Raman, a blind Google engineer who has built a number of software applications specifically tailored for blind users.

Another giant of Silicon Valley, Oracle, has partnered with the National Federation of the Blind to encourage blind youth to pursue a future in technology and science. In fact, the past few months alone have seen a number of advancements in media for the blind, ranging from the crass to the innovative.

But what about the development of technologies that can help people regain their sight? It’s here that we may have seen our most-drastic advancements. Since stem cells research has kicked into high gear, scientists have seen major advancements with the blind. Stem cell infusions have even helped some subjects regain considerable levels of vision. Other scientists have also developed bionic retinas that can be implanted into the eye.

It all adds up to a wave of development for the visually impaired. Considering how the world has become increasingly visual and interactive, the timing couldn’t be better.


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