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Assistive Technology Transfer Update


Title: Update on the Demand-Pull Project
Author: Stephen M Bauer
Published: 2001
Publication: Assistive Technology Transfer Update: Vol. 3 Issue 2 (Summer)


The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology Transfer (T2RERC) has continued its work on the Demand-Pull Project. This article discusses each specific project encompassed in the Demand-Pull Project including the Wheeled Mobility Project, The Hearing Enhancement Project and the Communication Enhancement Project. Also discussed in the article is participation in the Stakeholders Forum on Communication Enhancement.

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The Demand-Pull Project seeks to improve the variety, quality and choice of products available in the marketplace. The Project first identifies important, unmet market needs and then seeks out emerging technologies, research and development (R&D) capabilities, or design expertise from Federal Laboratories, advanced technology manufacturers, and researchers (referred to as "technology developers") to address these needs. The T2RERC then facilitates the transfer of these technologies to assistive technology manufacturers. When this article was written, three Demand-Pull projects – Wheeled Mobility, Hearing Enhancement, Communication Enhancement (Augmentative and Alternative Communication – AAC) – were in different states of completion.

The Wheeled Mobility Project (begun in October 1998, in partnership with the RERC on Wheeled Mobility) is focused on the identification and transfer of technology solutions. The T2RERC is actively working with developers of power management (battery string equalizer), power monitoring, manual wheelchair propulsion (geared lever drives) and advanced motor (with electronic transmission capabilities) technologies. The battery string equalizer is the technology closest to full commercialization; its employment significantly increases the performance and life span of the lead-acid batteries used with power wheelchairs and scooters. The battery string equalizer is being tested by six manufacturers and is likely to be incorporated in one or more product lines in Fall 2001.

The Hearing Enhancement Project (begun in October 1999, in partnership with the RERC on Hearing Enhancement) is focused on dissemination of its early work on the identification and transfer of technology solutions. The "Proceedings for the Stakeholders Forum on Hearing Enhancement" were completed in January 2001. These Proceedings were mailed to Forum participants and published online at http://cosmos.buffalo.edu/hearing. In July 2001, the first set of problem statement abstracts was published in NASA Technical Briefs. Early technology transfer efforts include discussions with an industry leader on wireless BlueTooth Technology on its application to Assistive Listening Systems (ALS), hearing aids and binaural hearing aids. The T2RERC is also working to transfer an adaptive beam-forming desktop microphone developed by the RERC on Hearing Enhancement, with early interest having been shown by a major corporation specializing in microphones and ALS.

The Communication Enhancement Project (begun in October 2000, in partnership with the RERC on Communication Enhancement) is focused on identifying technology needs, with early work on dissemination and the identification and transfer of technology solutions. From November 2000 to January 2001, the T2RERC ran three consumer panels - one on-line and two face-to-face (Buffalo, California). From February to March 2001, sixteen leading manufacturers and researchers were interviewed, and in April 2001 an Industry Profile was completed. Based upon this work, four areas with critical needs were identified: wireless (e.g., cell phone and Internet access); language processing (e.g., performance monitoring, context recognition); input (e.g., advanced user interfaces); and output (e.g., voice production) technology.

On June 5 and 6, 2001, the Stakeholders Forum on Communication Enhancement was held in Buffalo, New York with seventy-five participants (technology developers, product producers, resource providers and product consumers), not including personal care attendants (or family members) with each of the augmented communicators. The Forum opened with remarks by: Ed Linsenmeyer (Federal Laboratory Consortium); Carol Cohen (National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research); Barry Romich (Assistive Technology Industry Association and Communication Aid Manufacturers Association); and Frank DeRuyter (RERC on Communication Enhancement). On the first day, the RERC on Communication Enhancement used a personal computer to conduct a virtual tour of its work. Data gathered at the Forum is currently being analyzed for incorporation into problem statements and Proceedings (with a target completion date of September 2001).

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