MEMS Valves for Tactile Braille Text &Display

Period of Performance: 07/01/2009 - 06/30/2012


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Orbital Research, Inc.
4415 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44103
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Orbital Research is attempting to overcome the astronomical rates of functional illiteracy (inability to read) and unemployment among blind individuals by using a novel technology to produce affordable Braille products. Under this program Orbital is developing a tactile graphical display that will enable blind people to access verbal and non-verbal content on personal computers, PDAs, and the like. This capability will enable learning opportunities that more closely resemble the breadth of modalities available to the sighted community. The developments proposed here extend technology that has been developed by Orbital Research under separate programs. The basis of the technology is a pneumatic system, controlled by microvalves in a continuous array. The completed device will be less expensive and more robust than currently available technology. The feasibility of each of the components has been demonstrated in the Phase I program. During this proposed Phase II the components will be integrated and tested both in the lab and through user evaluations. The outcome of the program will be several demonstration units with display areas of 40 square inches. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The blind population in the United States suffers from an illiteracy rate of over 80% and an unemployment rate of 68%;though 90% of employed blind people are Braille literate. This crisis can be overcome through greater accessibility of Braille technology, facilitated by affordable devices. Orbital Research will commercialize a low cost graphical Braille display that will achieve this end, eventually improving literacy rates and employment opportunities.