DISCOVER – Guiding Device for the Visually Impaired

  • 2016

  • Social Impact

Designed By:

Commissioned By:

Jorge Trevino

Designed In:


Handheld navigation tool for the blind that allows users to “feel” their surroundings. Using pin-screen impression technology, users can touch the topography to feel from buildings to cars or other objects around them. GPS, tactile 3D maps and location-tagging make it the ultimate nav for those who can’t rely on sight.

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  • Inspired by Chris Downey's TED Talk "Design with the blind in mind", I decided to use my passion for Industrial Design to collaborate on imagining a world where blind people could move around with freedom. My main intention was to envision a concept design which could push emerging technologies to design a better world for the visually impaired societies. Discover is a handheld device composed of a camera on the front end which 3D scans what's in front you, it then translates that information into tangible surfaces using a pin-screen technology (similar to that of pin-art toys popularized in the 1980s). With this the user can touch and feel the shapes of objects such as cars, or even streets.

  • Once the camera 3D scans the objects in front of the users, they can then feel the object's shape on the pin-screen panel using their fingers. Although this could give a clear idea of what that object might be, sometimes they could come across objects which can be confusing, causing a anxiety and fear. For this situations, Discover has an audio feedback which can identify the object and tell the users what it is by simply pressing on the pin-screen panel.

  • -Discover: This allows the user to simply feel the objects that come across him when he is moving. -City: This option turns the pin-screen surface into a tangible navigational map, where the streets can feel as grooves. -GPS: This option is synchronized with the user's location and guides him to wherever he wants to go. It also allows gives real time feedback about his location and motion. -Read: Discover can also be used to translate sentences into braille so that the users can read. from signs, to texts. -Time: The surfaces on the pin-screen panel can also be used as a watch. -Tag: By tagging, the users save a specific place they want the product to remember, this way they can always

  • While holding the device with your hand, the thumb rests comfortably over a 3 point slider which can be used to select the desired scale of objects to translate. When moving the slider left to right, the tip of the thumb makes direct contact with the edge of the pin-screen panel, where you can feel the numbers 1 to 3 on Braille, this allows for instant feedback on which scale you are on. With 3 different scales to choose, Discover can translate from small objects, to cars, and big buildings into tangible surfaces.

    Discover was designed thinking about the way it would be purchased, this is why its aesthetic features are targeted to 2 different audiences: the Buyer, and the User. While a typical buying experience includes looking at the product, getting interested, and finally buying it, it would be a different experience when it comes to buying a product without sight. This is why we considered this product being purchased by a relative of the user, or a close friend. Therefore, when it comes to the buyer, the product needs to communicate trust, accuracy, safety, seriouness, and user-friendliness. Since the user is not going to see the product, but to feel it, monochromatic tones and soft surfaces made sense.

    The shape and smooth surfaces of Discover, make the users grab the device in a natural and comfortable way. By simply holding the device and moving your thumb around, it's smooth edges will guide you to discover the different functions and features of the product. This was achieved by sculpting foam mockups and feeling them with closed eyes This device has 6 different buttons with their specific function written in Braille. They are strategically placed for easy access, and designed with smooth surfaces to better feel the contrast of the Braille. Additionally, this device comes with a wrist strap designed with high quality materials to prevent the users from dropping the product and losing it.

    Designed for the blind people, this product strives for a perfect balance between form and function, where the ease of use plays one of the most important roles while defining each of the features of this device. That is why each of the buttons of Discover are carefully thought to allow the user know exactly what their function is at the same time when he touches the button. All of the buttons can be found easily, and there are no extra "styling" details on the body of the device to avoid the confusion or distraction from the main features.