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Forum Proceedings

Stakeholder Forum on Technology for Vision Impairment

Graphics: Forum Data


Market Needs | State-of-the-Practice | Strengths and Weaknesses
| Ideal Products | Barriers | Resources | References |

The following information is the raw data collected during the T2RERC's Stakeholder Forum. It reflects the comments and needs as expressed by the Forum participants. The items are presented in no particular order.

Market Needs (unmet needs of consumers, researchers, etc.)

Representation of Graphic Information

  • access to graphic information will require tactile (static and refreshable), auditory, multimedia, and haptic means;
  • represent three-dimensional objects in two dimensions;
  • ability to produce raised-line drawings;
  • ability to produce graphic images in large volumes at a low cost;
  • symbolic representation of mathematical concepts and equations;
  • graphic representation of complex objects (e.g., molecules with atoms and chemical bonds);
  • improved access to large graphic objects;
  • integrate accessible graphics into books;
  • educational infrastructure (as well as societal change) to train individuals on how to interpret graphic information;
  • early intervention to train individuals with blindness of all ages to interpret graphic representations;
  • experts to train individuals on how to use and interpret graphic representations;
  • ability to customize graphic representations (or enhanced visual representations) to individual-specific abilities;
  • alternative representation of graphic information based on user's past visual experience;
  • ability of user to customize graphic representation (to their needs and preferences);
  • ability to switch from a graphic (or spatial) representation to a text (or other) representation;
  • capabilities similar to a "search engine" that allow a person to search through visual objects in a structured, prioritized manner;
  • provide a hierarchical verbal or textual list of information contained in a visual object (one alternative representation);
  • ability to extract user requested (or selected) information from a visual object and present it in an accessible form;
  • ability to extract key visual information from a graphic image (e.g., relative to context);
  • software to extract features from visual objects;
  • query tools that can go into visual objects and look for features so that an individual can get to specific features (e.g., objects, colors, or patterns);
  • ability to identify information that is critical to convey graphically and information that can be conveyed in some other method (e.g., text);
  • ability to preserve visual information that the graphic representation is derived from (individual can return to that information at a later time);
  • convey image concepts rather than provide a literal representation of the image;
  • develop standard graphic symbols to represent colors, textures, etc.;
  • develop intuitive (easy to learn, quick to learn) graphic representations;
  • simplify graphic information to improve access for as wide a population as possible;
  • access to "all" the information presented on a computer screen (e.g., mathematical applications, spreadsheets, graphics on internet);
  • "tactile maps" where an individual selects features of interest and receives additional information;
  • ability to "tag" important graphic information;
  • ability to select features of a graphic image and be able to focus on objects or characteristics of that image;
  • ability to scale the tactile representation of graphics found on the internet;
  • ability to alter the resolution of graphics found on the internet;
  • ability to scale tactile graphics (general);
  • ability to access a section of a graphic image while maintaining access to the entire graphic representation (e.g., analogous to a magnifying window that can be moved about without losing context);
  • tactile representation of depth perception and visual convergence;
  • multi-height refreshable Braille display to be an output interface for personal computers;
  • tactile graphics pad that you can roll up;
  • tactile graphics pad that is portable and flexible;
  • tactile representation that allows for input from the user (like a touch screen);
  • tactile representation that is available as fast as visual representation for a person with sight;
  • ability to access graphic information that is changing in real time;
  • fast refresh rate for tactile representations (e.g., quick change from one graphic representation to the next);
  • accessible authoring tools;
  • training for individuals of all ages on tools to create graphic representations;
  • ability to create technical drawings and graphics (e.g., create the layout of paper for publication, an illustrator) and the verification of that creation;
  • authoring tools that allow persons to construct graphic objects that achieve desired goals (e.g., tools must be flexible and powerful);
  • authoring tools that provide feedback to blind individuals on the graphic objects ( flow charts) produced;
  • authoring tools that allow a blind individual to interpret an image and independently produce a tactile representation;
  • multi-modal representation of visual information, which might include auditory, haptic, tactile, and proprioceptive methods [Note: Proprioception refers to perception relative to position, posture, equilibrium or internal condition (Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 2003).];
  • ability of people with useable vision to access graphical information;
  • additional research is needed on access to graphics by persons with low but useable vision.

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State-of-the-Practice (current technology, strengths, weaknesses, etc.)

Current assistive technologies identified include the following:

  • embossers;
  • various ways of coating Braille or raised lines onto a page (e.g., use of heat pen, thermoform);
  • thermography [Note: thermography is a process of writing or printing that involves the use of heat (Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).];
  • thermoform [Note: thermoform is a vacuum forming machine that uses heat to produce Braille and graphic images on plastic paper (Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).];
  • Swell-Touch paper [Note: Swell-Touch paper was developed by American Thermoform Corporation for use in Swell-Form Graphics Machines and similar heat processors to create tactile images (American Thermoform Corporation, 2003).];
  • capsule paper [Note: capsule paper is paper coated with plastic consisting of tiny capsules from which tactile images can be made through heating the paper and creating raised images on the surface of the paper (National Centre for Tactile Diagrams, 2004).];
  • Tactile Image Enhancer [Note: Developed by Repro-Tronics, Inc., the Tactile Image Enhancer creates tactile images from images drawn on Flexi-Paper (Repro-Tronics Inc., 2001).];
  • Pictures in a Flash (P.I.A.F.) Tactile Image Enhancer developed by HumanWare, Inc. (2002) [Note: Uses heat sensitive capsule paper to create graphics];
  • screen magnifiers;
  • screen readers [Note: Access to graphics through verbalized text description];
  • verbal description of objects and images (recorded or live-voice);
  • "Alt Tags" [Note: "Alt Tags" are computer files that can be used to provide auditory representations of mathematical equations (e.g., functions) by using speech and non-speech auditory cues (Scadden, 1996)];
  • audio-tactile representation of graphics (e.g., NOMAD/Mentor, Talking Tactile Tablet);
  • Speech Assisted Learning System (SAL) [Note: SAL System is a tool used to assist in teaching students to read and write Braille and is manufactured by Freedom Scientific (Freedom Scientific, 2003a)];
  • technologies for producing three-dimensional models of two-dimensional objects [Note: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has a technology called 3D Printing that deposits a layer of resin that is bound by a polymer where the object is to be formed. This process can build an object very quickly (Three Dimensional Printing Laboratory, 2000)];
  • stereolithography [Note: Rapid prototyping process used to make three dimensional objects (Stereolithography.com, 2003)];
  • vibrotactile displays (e.g., Optacon) [Note: Optacon, developed by Telesensory Corporation. (1999) is a reading machine that converts optical characters to tactile characters.];
  • multi-height refreshable display research [Note: Further information on the NIST Rotating-Wheel Based Refreshable Braille Display (prototype) is available at http://www.itl.nist.gov/div895/isis/projects/Brailleproject.html#resources. Information can also be obtained on the two-height refreshable Braille display being developed by iACTIV Corporation at http://www.iactivcorp.com/xdrive/products/RB-04A.pdf.];
  • KGS display [Note: A piezoelectric tactile graphics and Braille display manufactured by KGS Corporation (Shizuka, 2001).];
  • two-height Braille display [Note: Examples include the ALVA Satellite series Braille display (ALVA Access Group, Inc., 2003) and PowerBraille displays by Freedom Scientific (Freedom Scientific, 2003b)];
  • pin-matrix displays (e.g., Braille displays, tactile mouse);
  • tonal representation of graphical information (e.g., auditory oscilloscopes);
  • auditory graphic displays (e.g., calculators);
  • haptic interfaces [Note: Haptic interfaces use a tactile mode of communication with a computer by sensing body (e.g., finger, hand, arm) movement (Jupitermedia Corporation, 2003)];
  • PHANTOMTM [Note: The Personal Haptic Interface Mechanism by SensAble Devices, Inc. More information can be found at http://www.sensable.com/products/phantom_ghost/phantom.asp];
  • WingMan® (force feedback mouse by Logitech, Inc. www.logitech.com);
  • three-dimensional interactive models (tactile representations with an interactive program that is sensitive to where an individual touches) such as talking globes, talking molecules;
  • graphics authoring and analysis programs [e.g., PicTac manufactured by Personal Data Systems, Inc. takes an OCR image and turns it into embosser graphics (Duxbury Systems, Inc., 2000)];
  • Microsoft® Visio® (accessible program for making charts, flowcharts, graphs [Note: additional information can be found at: http://www.microsoft.com/Office/Preview/visio/default.asp]);
  • MATLAB® [Note: MATLAB is a mathematics and graphics environment developed by The MathWorks, Inc. More information can be found at: http://www.mathworks.com/products/matlab/description2.jsp];
  • IntelliTalk II® [Note: IntelliTalk II is a word processor that provides speech output to graphics produced by IntelliTools®, Inc. (Intellitools, Inc., 2003)];
  • Scalable Vector Graphics (research project) [Note: Scalable Vector Graphics is a language used to describe two-dimensional graphics in XML (Eisenberg, 2001). XML or Extensible Markup Language is used with documents that contain structured information (Walsh, 1998). Researchers at Oregon State University are developing an audio/tactile/haptic SVG browser to provide access to graphic information (Oregon State University, 2001)].

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Strengths and Weaknesses (of select technologies)

Audio-tactile representation
NOMAD/Mentor Quantum Technology Corporation

Strengths of the NOMAD/Mentor include:

  • can be used as an interactive graphics tool for thinking and conceptualizing;
  • can be used for training;
  • works in real-time (e.g., immediate feedback on graphics object selected);
  • two-dimensional representation of graphic objects;
  • allows for multiple levels of information to be placed under each graphic;
  • label on the back of graphics is instantly linked to a file associated with the graphic;
  • label for graphic objects (tag values) can be a dynamic variable (auditory response is dependent upon the user's actions);
  • can be densely packed with labels;
  • flexible output, including touch acoustic labels, talking labels, or even connect to an external Braille display;
  • flexible labeling (multiple levels, dynamic) allows the individual to pack a large quantity of graphic information into a relatively small space (even with many or complex graphical objects);
  • can be really useful as an independent studies program.

Weaknesses of NOMAD/Mentor include:

  • many elderly individuals will have problems with auditory displays [Note: About 70% of elderly adults with severe vision impairment also present with a significant hearing loss. (Heine and Browning, 2002).];
  • generally requires a sighted person to do the initial labeling and set up because original drawings are inaccessible;
  • device must be programmed;
  • creation of graphic objects is difficult, labor intensive and expensive;
  • requires a great deal of programming time to develop content for graphic objects;
  • process of creating audio-tactile representation of graphics objects requires a high level of expertise;
  • device is not portable;
  • device is not foldable (factor for increased portability);
  • device is large.
IntelliTalk II Intellitools

Strengths of IntelliTalk II include:

  • users have access to a wide number of graphic objects;
  • provides auditory output corresponding to the tactile image.

Weaknesses of IntelliTalk II include:

  • Most people who are blind do not have the ability to independently create the initial images.
SAL (Speech Assisted Learning System) Freedom Scientific Corporation

Strengths of SAL include:

  • Braille worksheets (bar-coded) are placed on top of graphics tablet;
  • tablet is touch sensitive and provides synthesized speech feedback;
  • diskettes contains courseware corresponding to information on worksheets;
  • used for teaching Braille;
  • provide input by pressing tablet touch screen or through integrated Braille keyboard.
"Alt Tags" (computer graphics system)

Strengths of "Tags" include:

  • one way to create graphics for individuals who are blind;
  • individuals can distinguish objects using "alt tags."

Weaknesses of "Alt Tags" include:

  • cumbersome to use;
  • users cannot keep track of objects with current "alt tags;"
  • not in real time;
  • auditory feedback is not accurate enough and difficult to interpret;
  • no force feedback.
Haptic interfaces
PHANTOM SensAble Technologies, Inc.

Strengths of PHANTOM include:

  • technical developments for industrial, gaming and other applications will not require major redesign for disability applications;
  • can represent dynamic information so that users can feel things in motion in space.

Weaknesses of PHANTOM include:

  • insufficient human factors were considered when user interface was developed;
  • utilizes large motions (controlled by large muscle groups) to resolve graphical features for what is essentially a fine motor task;
  • analogous to resolving the surface of a three-dimensional object with one finger;
  • small graphical features that are not sufficiently "smooth" (sealed up) cannot be easily traced;
  • age dependency on preference of multimodal versus single mode interface approaches (elderly individuals prefer single mode);
  • authoring tools to create virtual 3D objects (for PHANTOM are relatively simplistic);
  • authoring tools to create virtual 3D objects (for PHANTOM are difficult to use);
  • user interface "hangs in the air" rather than being supported by a base (preferred);
  • very expensive - costs $10,000 to $15,000 (Potts, 2000).
Tactile Mouse (e.g., VTPlayer) Adaptive Technologies

Strengths of the Tactile Mouse include:

  • when tracked across a letter, the letter can be converted into Braille. The user would then feel Braille characters moving under his finger;
  • tactile stimulus to the finger directly corresponds to images on the computer monitor;
  • tactile stimulus is dynamic - user feels shapes as the mouse passes over features;
  • can combine auditory and tactile information;
  • provides cues about directionality.

Weaknesses of the Tactile Mouse include:

  • small physical displacements are used to resolve graphical features. However, the ability to understand entire graphical object is poor;
  • small graphical features cannot be easily resolved;
  • takes a while to understand how to use VTPlayer;
  • easier to understand a hard copy of a tactile graphic than to explore and understand the same object with the VTPlayer;
  • analogous to resolving the surface of a three-dimensional object with one finger.
The Logitech WingMan Immersion Technologies

Strengths of the WingMan include:

  • cost is reasonable;
  • multiple PC games exist that can be played with the WingMan;
  • when used with games, the user gets a lot of experience interpreting shapes, texture, etc;
  • games are interesting and serve to motivate the user to use and become efficient with mouse.

Weaknesses of the WingMan include:

  • thought to be out of production (participant believed that mass-market demand was poor) [Note: the Wingman Force™ 3D and Strike Force™ 3D are both available from Immersion Technologies (see website above)].
Multi-Height Refreshable Display (MHRD) (research projects)

Strengths of MHRD include:

  • conveys considerably more information than single height displays;
  • allows user and developer to take advantage of visual information such as the gray scale [Note: Gray scale is "a pattern consisting of shades of gray between black and white" used to calibrate the shades on a computer display or printer (Computer User, 2003).]
  • obviates the need (in many cases) for static graphic representations.

Weaknesses of MHRD include:

  • users should be able to determine their position on a MHRD;
  • users need training to interpret MHRD;
  • technologically complex;
  • need MHRD to be an input interface;
  • needs to be touch sensitive with capabilities similar to NOMAD/Mentor (touch graphic location and receive auditory or Braille information about that location);
  • difficult for user to identify and track their location on the tactile display;
  • automatic generation of multi-height graphic representations does not exist;
  • need improved means to create graphic information for MHRD;
  • need to integrate accessible graphics into books;
  • authoring tool to produce tactile representations does not exist;
  • difficult to maintain;
  • large;
  • not portable;
  • very expensive;
  • generates a lot of heat;
  • high power consumption (often) is necessary to maintain multi-height configuration;
  • additional research is needed to develop and perfect the technology;
  • improved actuators (to raise, lower, and position pins) are needed.
Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)

Strengths of SVG include:

  • easy to add text to scalable vector graphics;
  • users can scale any part that is too small, zoom it up, print, and read it;
  • could solve the authoring problem.

No SVG weaknesses noted.

Rapid Prototyping of Graphic Objects (RPGO)

Strengths of RPGO include:

  • RPGO can transform any three-dimensional (3D) digital representation (e.g., equation, 3D image file) into accessible 3D objects;
  • Touch is a sensory modality that remains fairly intact over age. Tactile perception decreases at a very slow rate as people age compared to other sensory modalities.
  • 3D representation of visual information is easier to understand and requires less training for users (intuitive);
  • 3D representation of visual information eliminates abstraction as a barrier to understanding (2D representation is always an abstraction of 3D information);
  • RPGO might be used to create molds for mass production of tactile sheets;
  • RPGO can reasonably be used to create up to three thousand copies of an object;
  • Objects created with RPGO are extremely precise which is crucial in tactile perception;
  • 2D images can be transformed into 3D objects that can be produced with RPGO and directly accessed by the user;
  • Any 3D image file can be used with RPGO. For example, online United States Geological Survey maps are all 3D images because they have elevations as part of their information;
  • a great deal of graphical information is already available as 3D representations;
  • RPGO is highly reproducible;
  • RPGO can be easily personalized / customized (e.g., change scale);
  • 3D objects are easy to recognize by touch;
  • 3D objects have high information density;
  • RPGO can produce 3D objects with high resolution.

Weaknesses of RPGO include:

  • creation of 3D objects requires professional expertise;
  • creation of 3D objects can be a slow process, especially for complex object representations;
  • RPGO equipment is expensive;
  • to perceive small details, objects must be substantially scaled up;
  • creation of 3D objects with RPGO can be a messy process;
  • authoring tools for creating 3D objects through RPGO are not adequate.
Creation of Graphical Information (MATLAB, Visio)
MATLAB The MathWorks, Inc.

Strengths of MATLAB include:

  • supports symbolic mathematical manipulation;
  • has an option for creating tactile graphics;
  • command line environment allows a person who is blind to create and manipulate graphics (one of the stronger access options);
  • gives users access to complex mathematical information;
  • nice visual graphic capabilities (e.g., display functions);
  • provides auditory access to existing graphics;
  • Smith-Kettlewell has created a software toolkit for MATLAB that works with Braille embossers and sound cards to represent graphic images in an auditory or tactile mode. [Note: The Smith Kettlewell Eye Research Institute is a non-profit organization at the California Pacific Medical Center that focuses on human vision research. (The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, 2003)].

Weaknesses of MATLAB include:

  • very specialized software;
  • typically used as a tool for engineers and mathematicians;
  • concepts are abstract and technically challenging (making it difficult to use);
  • expensive.
Microsoft Visio® Microsoft Corporation

Strengths of Visio® include:

  • accessible graphics authoring tool;
  • very widely used program for making charts and flow diagrams;
  • can create charts without actually drawing graphics (abstract representation);
  • "well-structured" program;
  • charts can be printed out on embossers and read;
  • creates structured information that is not intrinsically graphic (e.g., text, trees);
  • to create and access graphics, users are able use the chart wizard in Excel;
  • new release of Visio® (expected in 2003) will introduce a lot of additional accessibility features;
  • graphic images can be accessed electronically;
  • graphic images that are difficult to access (interpret) can be printed out on an embosser.
Auditory Representation of Graphic Images
Tonal Representation (e.g., products with tonal output and products with verbal output)

Examples include:

  • Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute auditory oscilloscope, [Note: Additional information available at http://www.ski.org/Rehab/Compendium/General/I.html];
  • American Printing House for the Blind auditory calculator [Note: Additional information available at http://www.aph.org/products/orion.htm]

Strengths of tonal representation include:

  • Research has shown that users can learn to understand an audio representation of a graphic environment extremely well;
  • good way to represent graphic information for a single trace (e.g., waveforms) on x-y graph;
  • For some graphics, tonal representation is superior to tactile representation ("recent study in United Kingdom").

Weaknesses of tonal representation include:

  • more training is required to interpret increasingly complex graphs and traces;
  • very difficult to handle multiple traces;
  • not an effective means to represent anything more complicated than an x-y graph.
Verbal Description

Strengths of verbal description include:

  • alternative means to represent graphic images;
  • can describe (pre-recorded, real time) many kinds of graphics, even circuit diagrams;
  • can provide intricate details about the graphic image.

Weaknesses of verbal description include:

  • not a technology;
  • graphic information is described inconsistently by different readers;
  • individuals providing the verbal descriptions need training;
  • generally requires a sighted individual to provide the description.
Mass Production of Graphic Images

Strengths of thermoforming include:

  • only way that large numbers of graphic images are currently produced;
  • relatively low cost to produce graphic images;
  • suitable for commercial production.

Weaknesses of thermoforming include:

  • moving fingers across the thermoform material is fatiguing (e.g., a lot of friction);
  • difficult to read/interpret thermoformed graphics;
  • difficult to create the original template/mold;
  • requires a special thermoforming machine;
  • requires special thermoforming material;
  • thermoforming machinery is expensive.

Strengths of thermography include:

  • better than thermoforming from the users perspective (e.g., thermographic materials are less fatiguing, easier to read);
  • new thermographic powders support print elevations up to 350 microns (.35 inch);
  • used with a variety of paper materials including label, cover, and greeting card stock;
  • can produce approximately 40 copies per minute;
  • equipment is very dependable;
  • graphic images can be produced at a competitive (to thermoforming) price;
  • suitable technology for commercial production.

Weaknesses of thermography include:

  • requires large equipment;
  • equipment is costly (estimated at $50,000);
  • not suitable for individual consumers.
P.I.A.F (Pictures in a Flash) Tactile Image Enhancer (TIE) Repro-Tronics Inc.

Strengths of P.I.A.F. include:

  • easy to use;
  • TIE produces a raised graphic image.

No weaknesses were noted for P.I.A. F.

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Ideal Products (Personal Accessor and Universally Designed Consumer Electronics)

"Tactile Computer"
  • stand alone system;
  • computer capabilities (desktop applications, internet access, e-mail, etc);
  • refreshable high resolution tactile interface for Braille and graphics;
  • tactile interface has input and output capabilities;
  • user interface must accommodate different input modalities (voice, keyboard, tactile, etc.);
  • user interface should be command line format, either typed or spoken;
  • provide auditory output;
  • as user passes their hand over the tactile display, they should receive both auditory and tactile feedback in real time (immediate);
  • large package of software applications;
  • perform different tasks depending on which application is loaded (analogous to desktop PC);
  • built-in capabilities for user training;
  • ability to fold in two like a book (analogous to laptop PC);
  • portable but larger than pocket sized;
  • affordable.
Refreshable Tactile Interface
  • sense position of user's finger (perhaps using piezoelectric technology to transducers);
  • provide orientation information ( directions or path for point to point movement and different tones/tactile cues might indicate whether the user is closer or farther away from a target location, specific tone/tactile cue when user "arrives" at the location);
  • provide the user course directional information to get to an event;
  • provide location information (i.e.,, where your finger tip is within the image);
  • ability to identify location in a static image and examine the fine details at this location (hierarchy of detail);
  • allow the user to zoom in (increase scale about a selected location) and zoom out (increase scale about a selected location);
  • need a tool for creating tactile images (tool should also include a refreshable tactile display);
  • touch should access screen objects (tactile) and object information (auditory, speech) corresponding to that location;
  • perform mouse functions (e.g., drag fingertip to locate cursor, finger tap on tactile interface, select location on screen, and screen reader outputs textual content for that location);
  • provide tactile warning in real time (e.g., heat, vibration) when something changes on the screen;
  • continuous (membrane-type) surface rather than discrete pins for the device;
  • display should change in real time;
  • display should flag events or features of interest;
  • represent complete graphic images (larger tactile images are easier to interpret);
  • represent texture;
  • multi-height pins;
  • continuous range of pin height;
  • twenty pins per inch (PPI);
  • display size of four inches by four inches (size of a hand) or larger (e.g., the smaller the display, the more difficult it will be to interpret a graph or bell curve);
  • low power consumption;
  • support GUI access;
  • connect to a personal computer.
Access to Computer GUI
  • ability to:
    • enter both numerical and text data,
    • delete things (files, folders, documents),
    • edit things (file and folder names, documents, etc),
    • open and scroll through menus,
    • change image resolution and provide information to the user at any resolution (zoom in and out about a selected location),
    • label" graphic objects (automatically or manually) and sort through them,
    • abstractly represent graphic image,
  • integrated with screen reader to provide vocal output;
  • mouse capabilities;
  • provide full access to computer graphics;
  • automatically extract graphical features (e.g., from arbitrary image);
  • automatically enter extracted graphical features into a searchable database;
  • ability to triage through graphic image (e.g., choose what "features" users want to attend to);
    • provide multimodal representation of graphic objects (tactile, auditory, haptic);
  • flag events (e.g., special tone might indicate a change in the tactile display).
  • PHANTOM™ like capability for input to the device and output from the device (e.g., user places a finger(s) into the device; sensors for input are above the finger; sensors for output are below the finger).

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What barriers will hinder the development and introduction of ideal products?

  • difficulty in accessing technologies that may be classified or in military research laboratories;
  • insufficient research and development to be able to extract images or features;
  • lack of:
    • financial resources for research,
    • materials,
    • general market drivers,
    • will to provide solutions;
  • device complexity;
  • reliability of device;
  • device durability;
  • the necessity of access to graphic information has not been recognized;
  • the difficult hardware problem of the generation of a two-dimensional graphics tablet. Once that exists, there will be a large number of software applications for it.
  • Cost and technical barriers to development of five inches by five inches display with twenty DPI (high resolution) wanted by consumers.

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What resources will facilitate the development and introduction of the ideal product?

  • consumer market is available;
  • Homeland Security and Defense driven surge on software development (image and feature detection within images);
  • educating and recruiting internal champions for military research solutions;
  • Federal laboratory system research (expertise) on feature extraction for defense applications (picture-phone communication systems with a focus on narrowing the bandwidth);
  • Federal laboratory system research (expertise) on transducer technologies;
  • Federal laboratory system research (expertise) on advanced materials;
  • National Institute on Standards and Technology (NIST) work on tactile arrays. [Note: NIST developed a "new refreshable tactile graphic technology that has a reusable surface made up of thousands of rounded pins." (National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2003)];
  • MEMS technology for Braille displays could be used with graphics displays [Note: MEMS- Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems is "the integration of mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics on a common silicon substrate through microfabrication technology. While the electronics are fabricated using integrated circuit (IC) process sequences, the micromechanical components are fabricated using compatible"micromachining" processes that selectively etch away parts of the silicon wafer or add new structural layers to form the mechanical and electromechanical devices" (MEMS Exchange, 2003).];iACTIV Corp headed by Colin Drummond (see: http://www.iactivcorp.com/index.html) is scheduled to begin manufacturing, marketing and distribution of refreshable Braille display monitor (Stacklin, 2003);
  • QinetiQ work on Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) based tactile displays (See: www.qinetiq.com);
  • Orbital Research Inc. work on MEMS valves for tactile displays (See: http://www.orbitalresearch.com/);
  • progress in advanced materials;
  • polymer technologies (very inexpensive in response to small voltage changes) could raise and lower pins and be used to generate two-dimensional tactile surfaces;Texas Instruments research on "memory materials" [Note: Texas Instruments believes that new memory technology has great potential for a wide range of applications that includes consumer electronics and programmable digital signal processors (Electronic News, 2003).];
  • aerospace work on smart materials;
  • market drivers (outside of assistive technology) for the development of audio-tactile representations (e.g., virtual reality applications);
  • market drivers (outside of assistive technology) for the development of haptic technologies.

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