The ABCs of Science

24. September 2015 13:57 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments

The contradictory nature of language makes it fascinating. The nuances and inflections found in various languages seem to separate us. Meanwhile, the widespread use of language brings us together. Language is one of the hallmarks of human evolution. It's a diverse, evolving system that represents our inherent need to connect with one another.

Although the importance of language can’t be overestimated, its prolific use is often taken for granted. Varying dialects and physical disabilities create even more difficulties in communication, even among those who speak the same language. Whether or not it's a matter of life or death, people need to be able to get their message across as clearly as possible. Fortunately, when regular words fail us, technology lends some assistance.

Hands-On Speech

Since its creation in 1824, the Braille writing system has been an invaluable resource for the visually impaired. Braille readers are able to decipher literature physically by moving their hands across deep impressions in paper. Unfortunately, the process by which Braille pages are printed is both costly and time-consuming. In the fast-paced Digital Age, this puts the blind at risk for not getting crucial information in a timely fashion. One young inventor is hoping to change that.

Shubham Banerjee
Image via Smithsonian Mag

Although twelve-year-old Shubham Banerjee has full use of his sight, he is well aware of the statistics regarding the drop-off in modern Braille usage. With the prohibitive cost of printing and the popularity of voice-to-text technology, he saw that people were missing out on access to an important literary tool. It was then that the young engineering student used a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robotics kit to build a prototype Braille printer that he named Braigo. The printer expedites the printing process while using materials that significantly lower the cost. Banerjee, now a high school freshman, has founded his own company, Braigo Labs, which has already begun crafting the new model of his invaluable printing device.

Living Language

Biochemist Linden Gledhill was growing and cultivating live coral when his internet research led him to information on ferrofluids. Ferrofluids are created when fluids are infused with magnetic particles that allow them to be controlled and manipulated. The unique patterns fascinated Gledhill and he soon found that he could recreate specific patterns over and over again. That’s when he informed his friend Craig Ward, a former advertising executive, and the two of them began to form a series of random blobs into a specific language.

meaningful blobs
Image via Wired.

The collaboration led to the creation of the Fe203 Glyphs alphabet. It consists of 138 individual designs, which resemble Rorschach-style ink blots. Although the glyphs were created for no specific purpose, the creators say they’ve gotten many interesting suggestions. They say the system has been suggested as an alternative to Braille, cryptography, and even QR codes.

Whether these newly invented writing styles become the new norm or become ancient history remains to be seen. What's certain is that technology has increased the number of ways people can communicate with one another. Linguistic barriers are no longer as imposing as they once were.

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