March 2, 2024

New Technology, BrushLens, Makes Touchscreen Displays Accessible for All Users

A team of researchers at the University of Michigan has developed an experimental device called BrushLens, which has the potential to enable people with disabilities to use touchscreen interfaces. Led by Assistant Professor Anhong Guo and Associate Professor Alanson Sample, the team created a high-tech smartphone case that allows users to operate touchscreens using their phone’s camera combined with a ring of “autoclickers.”

The BrushLens device is designed as a smartphone case that leaves the screen visible on top and has a window for the phone’s rear-facing camera at the bottom. The autoclickers surrounding the camera window alter the capacitance of the touchscreen to simulate a finger-touch. The phone is moved across the surface of a large touchscreen, and the camera reads the displayed text. An accompanying app then speaks out the words as the phone passes over them.

To click on a word or button, users can tap a large button on the app screen or use the phone’s screen reader function. The BrushLens responds by activating the relevant autoclicker(s), registering a touch on the underlying touchscreen. The app can also guide users across the screen by dividing it into a grid and using the phone’s IMU to track its position within the grid. By comparing the desired onscreen button’s grid location with the phone’s current grid location, the app guides users until they reach the button.

The researchers tested the BrushLens device on 10 volunteers, four of whom had tremors or spasms and six of whom were visually impaired. After an initial learning curve, all participants found that the device improved their ability to use touchscreen displays. The prototype cost less than $50 to make, and the final commercial version is expected to be even less expensive. In addition, the final version could be powered by the phone’s battery and perform all data processing using the phone itself.

According to Chen Liang, a doctoral student and the first author of the study, many technologies assume users’ abilities, making it difficult for people with disabilities to operate touchscreen devices. The goal of the BrushLens device is to make touchscreen technology accessible to everyone.

In conclusion, the BrushLens device developed by the University of Michigan’s research team has the potential to revolutionize touchscreen accessibility for people with disabilities. The device’s combination of a smartphone case, camera, autoclickers, and accompanying app allows users to read and navigate touchscreen displays with ease. With further development, this technology could significantly improve the user experience for individuals who are blind or have limited finger control, making touchscreen interfaces more inclusive for all users.

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  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it