The ultimate goal of this project is to market a electromechanical and software system for Blind and Low Vision (B/LV) individuals that will enable creation, communication and reproduction of freehand drawings. In school, at home and in the workplace, virtually everyone needs to be able to produce a wide variety of freehand sketches, diagrams, driving directions, floor plans, designs, charts, graphs, flowcharts, hand-written mathematics, and art. The B/LV community presently can purchase raised-line drawing kits, akin to pencil and paper, which do allow one-time production of tactile drawings by scribing with a stylus on plastic sheets. What users cannot accomplish is erasing and correction;repeated drawing and erasing on single sheets;copying and reproduction;and digital recording, transmission, and sharing of raised-line drawings - setting severe limits on the tools and topics of education, and dramatically narrowed employment opportunities. The proposed product line will be the inaugural initiative of E.A.S.Y. LLC (Engineering to Assist and Support You). It will address the unmet needs outlined above by bundling (1) a digitizing drawing tablet;(2) a thermally-activated eraser;and, (3) a robotic raised-line printer into one system. The goal of the proposed STTR Phase I project is to assess the feasibility of the applicants'engineering concept for the printer technology. """"""""Feasibility"""""""" signifies consistent production of effective raisd lines and faithful reproduction of raised-line drawing files. The engineering outcome of the project will be refinements necessary for optimizing the performance of the current prototype.
The specific aims are to evaluate the efficacy of the applicants'mechanized raised-line drawing technology, first by objective measures (such as line height, width, and uniformity and repeatability;and fidelity of reproductions to originals) and then by subjective measures, (including blind evaluators'ratings and ability to recognize mechanized prints of familiar shapes). A subcontract to the University of Vermont will provide access to two senior engineering faculty members who mentored the student project phase of this effort, resulting in the current prototype. Dr. Coleman has expertise in mechatronics, design, computations, and mechanical analysis. Dr. Rosen is an expert in user- interactive product development, design methodology, and development of products for the disabled. The Phase II sequel to this project will be further development of the digitizing tablet and eraser, and integration with the optimized printer to prepare and evaluate a market-ready system. The E.A.S.Y. business plan calls for marketing efforts in conjunction with the National Federation of the Blind and partner companies, expansion of the product line into tactile graphics tools for education, and development of new products to meet the needs of mass markets and users with disabilities. Funding for this plan will be sought from a combination of investment, loans, partnerships with other firms, and further federal grants.
This research project will lead to a new freehand sketching system for the blind. Our system will greatly increase opportunities for convenient, quick, and clear tactile graphical communication of all kinds (e.g., sketches, figures, diagrams, designs, charts, graphs, schematics, flowcharts, and hand-written math) for blind or low-vision individuals in everyday life, in school and on the job. It will also help to understand how visually impaired people create and interpret freehand tactile graphics and how to better use them in teaching and learning practice.