STTR Phase II: An Assistive Tool to Locate People and Objects with a Multimodal Thermogram Interface

Period of Performance: 09/15/2015 - 08/31/2017

$742K

Phase 2 STTR

Recipient Firm

Moai Technologies, LLC
MAPLE GROVE, MN 55369
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Research Institution

University of Maine
5717 Corbett Hall
Orono, ME 04469
Institution POC

Abstract

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is the assistive use by blind people of thermal imaging. The resulting product provides a person who is blind or visually impaired with the relevant information about the layout of an unfamiliar public space in order to assist blind users in everyday activities. Thermal imaging can differentiate people and objects from their background without the need for complex image analysis. The shape and the temperature of the human body allows the location of people to be easily determined. The societal impact will be assisting users in navigation of complex public spaces. A blind person can use a smartphone?s haptic touchscreen display to examine the thermal image to determine the location of people in front of them. Information about the layout of an unfamiliar public space can be learned from the heat and shape of materials. Examples would be locating vending machines like ATMs and train passes. The market sector for this technology will likely extend beyond assisting blind users, to include additional commercial opportunities as well. This Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) Phase 2 project will leverage past National Science Foundation Funded research to develop a product that a blind/low vision user can use to receive practical navigation and interaction information about their environment from a multimodal thermogram (thermal image) interface on a smartphone. There are no practical assistive technologies for blind or low vision users that allow them to locate people, objects, and the layout information of their surroundings other than exploring with a cane. This development will address the objective of creating an interface that provides both practical utility and will be accepted by the target demographic of blind users. This project represents an excellent translational path from NSF-sponsored research programs to a product that is built from the ground up on solid theoretical underpinnings and empirical findings from multimodal human information processing. This development will use thermal radiation from people, machines, lighting and heat retention differences in building materials and convert this data into a user interface to facilitate blind navigation and environment interaction. The product resulting will be a multimodal (kinesthetic, vibro-tactile, and auditory) interface for blind users of a smartphone to interpret and gain useful value from thermal image information.