SBIR Phase I: Electronic Orientation and Navigation System for People with Visual Impairments

Period of Performance: 01/01/2007 - 12/31/2007


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

ManningRF, LLC
2718 Winningham Rd.
chapel hill, NC 27516
Principal Investigator


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I research project will design, build and test a new type of Orientation and Navigation (O&N) system for people with visual impairments. This research will develop a new type of radio frequency identification (RFID) system, in which intelligent, variable-range active RFID tags are programmed with information about their locations and placed throughout indoor environments like schools, shopping malls and museums. This information will be accessible to people with visual impairments via a small RFID reader worn on the user's belt. An important part of the research will focus on user interface development, which will consist of a text-to-speech synthesizer and an innovative three-button input system. This research will lead to a prototype RFID-based orientation and navigation system that is low-cost, functional in both indoor and outdoor environments and simple enough for use by children. It will combine standard Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) anti-collision techniques with an innovative dynamic transmission range management system. While GPS-based solutions show promise in outdoor environments, there are currently no widespread O&N devices that are designed for use in indoor environments. This makes it difficult for people with visual impairments to navigate through indoor public spaces. There are 10.4 million people with visual impairments in the U.S. Because this system will be inexpensive and easy to use, it has the potential to become widespread. Also, because of the simplicity of the interface, the system will be useful to Orientation and Mobility educators working with young children to develop spatial concepts.