The folks at Blitab have created a tablet with a touch screen to search and select with, but it is not the main display. Instead it translates text from the Web and other digital sources into Braille at about 65 words per display (depending on what you are reading). There have been Braille display devices for a while, but they have been limited to a single line which can only hold about 5 words on average by moving rigid pins up and down to form each letter. They also cost thousands of dollars. The Blitab Braille display uses layers of fluids and a special proprietary membrane they aren’t talking about to form an entire screen’s worth of words, and when they finish refining it they plan to put it on sale in the fall for around $500. Using it 8 hours a day to read will give you a battery life of 5 days, a discharge rate I wish my own tablet could match. This has the potential to open up a lot of the online world and its resources to the visually impaired at an affordable price in a way that has never been available to them before. There is a similar project in development at the University of Michigan, but so far it is mostly in the research stage. Thanks to the MIT Technology Review for the heads up on this one.

New York City is rolling out its LinkNCY FREE Gigabit Wifi access points, which take the place of existing phone booths. When they are done they plan to have 7,500 public hubs throughout the city, each including USB charging ports and a touchscreen web browsing display for those without tablets or smart phones. To defray the cost of this free public service they are using two 55-inch advertising displays at each hub site, which they estimate will generate more than $500 million in add revenue over the next dozen years.