Linespace: A Sense Making Platform for the Blind
Saiganesh Swaminathan, Thijs Roumen, Robert Kovacs, David Stangl, Stefanie Mueller, Patrick Baudisch

In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’16)
full paper: ACM digital library, PDF

Linespace is a tactile display system for blind users. The foundation of our system is a large 140x100cm display area, on which the system creates raised tactile lines with the help of a 3D printer. The foot switch allows users to enter text and issue commands by talking to the computer.

We use Linespace to give blind users access to the type of software packages that normally only sighted people can access, namely the type of software that helps them to make sense of complex data. So far, we have created a simple homefinder program, a spreadsheet program that can read and write Microsoft Excel, two simple games, and a simple programming environment.

One might say that lineSpace is an interactive "visualization" system for the blind. The key to achieving this is Linespace' large display as it allows displaying a lot of contents at once, where smaller display systems need to update screen contents. The use of lines (instead of the more common Braille dots) helps create visualizations.

The vision behind linespace is to help blind users interact with and make sense of complex spatial data. It thereby intends to pick up the vision behind of Vannevar Bush's memex, Engelbart Online system, and Xerox PARC's personal computer, by investigating how we can recreate this type of interaction for blind users--how to use computers to help people think better.

Linespace' print head is borrowed from a 3D printer. During operation, it squeezes liquid PLA plastic onto the display, resulting in raised lines that users can feel using their fingertips. The same print head also offers a scraper that can remove lines under computer control.

Saiganesh Swaminathan, Thijs Roumen, Robert Kovacs, David Stangl, Stefanie Mueller, and Patrick Baudisch. 2016. Linespace: A Sensemaking Platform for the Blind. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2175-2185. DOI:

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