1 black with orange front, rectangular device in leather case
The Optacon OPtical-to-TActile-CONverter is a compact, portable reading aid for the blind. It is about the size of a textbook, and weighs less than 2kg. It works by converting a printed image into a tactile image that a blind person can feel with one finger. After a period of training and practice, a blind person can use the Optacon to read ordinary books, magazines, newspapers, and other printed materials.
The Optacon was developed after intensive research at Standford University, California, USA and was trialed by clients of the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind (now part of Vision Australia) in 1973.
It has three main sections: 1 a miniature camera, 2 an electronics section, and 3 a tactile stimulator array. The miniature camera, about the size of a pocket knife, is mounted in a housing that has rollers for easy movement along a line of print. The camera is connected to the electronics section by a lightweight cable. The electronics section and the tactile stimulator array are in the main chassis.
The array consists of 144 tiny metal rods arranged in six vertical columns and 24 horizontal rows. Each of the rods can vibrate independently. The tips of these rods protrude through holes in a concave finger plate where the index finger is placed flat in order to read. These three components act together to convert the image of a printed letter or other shape into a pattern of vibrating rods, a tactile image of the letter or shape.
The letter shape is tactually perceived as an image that moves from right to left on the finger, showing the left or leading edge of the letter first. Letters are felt sequentially rather than all at once, and the image should be kept moving. The Optacon converts a printed O into a tactile form that resembles a crater with a vibrating rim -- a completed circle. C would have a gap or opening on the right side of the curve. The letter F would be felt, sequentially, as a vertical line with two trailing horizontal lines. Because it can convert any ordinary printed image into a corresponding tactile image, the Optacon is not restricted to any special typestyle or language.
The camera has a zoom lens that compensates for differences in the size of type. The standard Optacon lens can accommodate type sizes from 6 point to 20 point. With the optional F4A magnifier lens, type sizes as small as 4 point can be read.
Powered by a rechargeable battery, and comes with its own battery charger. The battery is contained within the main chassis, and is not removable by the user.
There are four basic controls on the Optacon: the Magnification Adjustment zoom button located on the camera section on the side opposite the rollers; and the On-Off switch, the Stimulator Intensity Adjustment knob, and the Threshold Adjustment knob located on the right side of the front panel. The Circuit Breaker protrudes from the right-hand wall inside the chassis compartment.
From left to right when the back panel is facing you, are located: the jack for connecting the battery charger; the Battery Check button; the Normal-Invert switch; and the Input/Output I/O connector for use with the Visual Display, when using the Repeater Cable to connect two Optacons to one another or with other accessories.
Designed not be removed from the leather case during normal operation, the On-Off switch is a slide switch located on the right side of the front panel. It slides up and snaps into place in the on position.