The Tactile Display - a funny story

In 2023 I happened across this in Quora....


What is the most ridiculous thing that you have ever convinced someone to believe?
An Answer came from:

Dave Samwell who describes himself as a
Retired sound engineer, world traveller and IP Network Engineer

In the UK we have pedestrian crossings which usually beep when the green man shows. In some areas this beeping is not allowed. Maybe the crossing is outside someone's house or business, and the beeps would be annoying.

In those situations there is a little spinning button on the underside of the box where you press the button. If you are blind you can normally hear the beeps to tell you when to cross but in these places where the beeps are outlawed there is a little button underneath the box where you "press to cross". This button spins when it is safe to cross.

Clever eh?

I thought so when I found out. I took great pride in telling my friends this factoid. One of my friends, a girl who was fairly dim, didn't believe me at all. She was quite insistent I was making it up.

"Go and check next time you cross the road." I told her, rather put out she should question my renowned skill at retaining useless pieces of information.

"In fact," I lied, "when you are there make sure you charge it up."

"What do you mean?" She queried.

"Well they can't connect them to the mains electricity because if they get wet in the rain they could electrocute the poor blind person." I made up on the spot. "So they have a little battery in them. You have the charge them up by spinning them, so that when the blind people come along there is enough power stored so it can spin and let them know to cross."

She still didn't seem to believe me, although I had impressed myself with my ability to make things up on the spot.

A few days later I saw this girl again and she excitedly came up to me and said,

"You were right! That spinning button is amazing!"

"Yeah they're cool." I grinned. "Did you make sure you charged it up?"

"Yeah I've been doing it every time I cross the road. It's such a cool invention."

I have reason to believe, this girl a decade later is still "charging up" the spinning button to help blind people cross the road.

She may be a moron. But at least she's a kind-hearted moron.



Note: I, Tony Heyes, invented the Tactile Display while working as a Reseach Fellow in the Blind Mobility Reseach Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Nottingham, England.



This web page has been written by Tony Heyes
of Perceptual Alternatives

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