The objective of the proposed research is to develop new technology for a Wearable Robotic Object Manipulation Aid (W-ROMA) for the visually impaired. The W-ROMA is a hand-worn assistive device that provides assistance to a visually impaired individual in effectively grasping an object. Thanks to the onboard computer vision methods, the W-ROMA is capable of detecting a target object, determining the hand-object misalignment, and conveying to the wearer, via natural human-device interfaces, the desired hand motion for hand-object alignment. The W-ROMA will contribute to the independent lives of the visually impaired in twofold: First, it helps the visually impaired with independent travel by enabling them to identify a movable obstacle and manipulate the obstacle to make a passage. Second, it assists the visually impaired in effectively grasping an object for non-navigational purpose. The PIs will involve graduate, undergraduate and high school students in the project and use the proposed project activities to recruit and retain engineering students. The proposal's Intellectual Merit is the development of new computer vision and human-robot interaction methods that support accurate and effective object grasping for the visually impaired for their independent daily lives. These methods include: (1) a new real-time object recognition method; (2) an innovative hand-object alignment mechanism; (3) a novel hybrid tactile display system for object shape rendering; and (4) a computationally efficient device localization method. The proposed solutions can be encapsulated in a hand-worn robotic device. The W-ROMA will provide new co-robotic functions for the visually impaired. The PIs have performed proof of concept studies for the computer vision and tactile display methods and the results are promising. The broader impacts include: (1) the research will positively impact the large visually impaired community; (2) the proposed methods can be applied to other small robotic systems that have a wide range of applications in military surveillance, law enforcement, and search and rescue; and (3) the project will improve the research infrastructure of the PI's university and train graduate and undergraduate students for their future careers in science and engineering.

Public Health Relevance

The project addresses a growing public health care issue--visual impairment. The research fits well into the NEI's Low Vision and Blindness Rehabilitation program that supports development of new technologies for minimizing the impact of visual impairment. The project addresses the NEI's mission by developing new assistive technology that will help the visually impaired to maintain a higher quality of life.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZEB1-OSR-A (M1))
Program Officer
Wiggs, Cheri
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University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Engineering (All Types)
Schools of Engineering
Little Rock
United States
Zip Code
Ye, Cang; Qian, Xiangfei (2018) 3-D Object Recognition of a Robotic Navigation Aid for the Visually Impaired. IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng 26:441-450
Zhang, He; Ye, Cang (2017) An Indoor Wayfinding System Based on Geometric Features Aided Graph SLAM for the Visually Impaired. IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng 25:1592-1604