Geriatric Independent Reading Device

Period of Performance: 05/15/1997 - 04/30/1998


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Ascent Technology
Boulder, CO 80304
Principal Investigator


The independent reading device (IRA) is a one handed portable electronic reading aid that vocalizes words and sentences encountered in daily reading activity including pill bottles, newspaper, and food packaging. A unique tactile interface assists users in locating and tracking the words to be spoken. During Phase I seventeen users averaging 80 years of age evaluated the device during 2 hour training sessions. 76% found the device mostly or completely easy to use and 82% felt the device would be useful in daily life and would wish to own one when fully developed. In Phase II IRA will be miniaturized and reading capabilities expanded. Sixteen subjects will participate in developmental testing, 8 subjects will perform 1 month at-home trials, and 4 subjects will participate in 6 month extended evaluations. A number of recognized experts in gerontology and low-vision research will participate in the test activity. Extensive data on device effectiveness will be collected through evaluation sessions as well as electronically through data logging within the device. The simplicity, utility, and projected low- cost of the IRA will assist with commercial success. Significant interest has been generated from distributors of assistive technology, user groups, and investment sources. PROPOSED COMMERCIAL APPLICATION: The Ascent Technology IRA device is a robust, multiple use portable scanner, whose capabilities are significantly better than those presently available. Ascent is aiming for a commercial volume that could support a $1500 selling price which competes very effectively with the existing technology. There are 3 million severely impaired elderly, as reported in 1992 by the American Foundation of the Blind, who are a potential market for this technology.