Design, Development, and Evaluation of an Interactive Tactile Graphics Printer for the Blind and VisuallyImpaired

Period of Performance: 08/15/2015 - 07/31/2016

$508K

Phase 2 STTR

Recipient Firm

Easy, LLC
Burlington, VT 05401
Principal Investigator

Abstract

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The ultimate goal of this project is to market an electromechanical and software system for Blind and Low Vision (B/LV) individuals that will enable interactive creation, communication and printing of Braille- annotated tactile graphics. 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 could not accomplish, until the advent of E.A.S.Y. LLC (Engineering to Assist and Support You) and its inTACT product line, is erasing and correction;repeated drawing and erasing on single sheets;copying and tactile reproduction on a "read-write" medium;and digital recording, transmission, and sharing of raised-line drawings. Absence of these capabilities has severe limits on the tools and topics of education, and dramatically narrowed employment opportunities. This Phase II STTR project will develop to the point of commercial readiness the inTACT tactile graphic Printer 2.0, an essential element of the product line which presently exists only as the alpha prototype generated by this team's Phase I project. The inTACT product line is the inaugural initiative of E.A.S.Y. LLC. It addresses the unmet needs outlined above through a system composed of (1) the inTACT Sketchpad (~100 units now sold, digitizing version prototyped);(2) the inTACT Eraser (~65 units now sold);and, (3) and the inTACT Printer, prototyped and evaluated in the Phase I project. The goal of the proposed STTR Phase II project is to engineer, evaluate and prepare a final commercial version 2.0 of the Printer. The engineering outcome of the project will be substantial new features and capacities necessary for optimizing the performance of the current prototype in ways defined through extensive field evaluation at nine sites of education, training, employment, advocacy, research, and accessible material production for the blind and visually impaired. A subcontract to the University of Vermont will provide access substantial effort from Dr. Michael Rosen, a member of the Engineering research faculty. Rosen is an expert in user interactive product development, design methodology, and development of products for the disabled. The UVM contract will further support and Engineering graduate research assistant. The E.A.S.Y. LLC business plan calls for marketing efforts in conjunction with the National Federation of the Blind, Perkins Products and other partner companies;expansion of the product line into tactile graphics materials for education, and development of new access technology. Funding for this plan is being sought from a combination of sales revenue, new investment, loans and partnerships with other vendors and distributors.