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FP7

TACMON2 Sintesi della relazione

Project ID: 315305
Finanziato nell'ambito di: FP7-SME
Paese: Hungary

Final Report Summary - TACMON2 (Development of a very low-cost Interactive Graphical Tactile Display as advanced user interface for visually impaired)

Executive Summary:
In TACMON2 project we developed an innovative technology for the low-cost realization of a large area Interactive Graphical Tactile Display as a computer periphery for visually impaired people, providing them a new dimension of access also to graphical oriented electronic information and to a wider range of PC applications. The proposed Graphical Tactile Display consists of a fine matrix of tactile (haptic) pins accessible for the human touch sense, thus for visually impaired people. Furthermore, this technology provides European SMEs not only a highly marketable product but opens larger markets in software for learning, leisure and Internet communication for use with TACMON2.
The main innovation of the TACMON2 core technology is the conceptual utilization of designs and technologies enabling batch production of the tactile matrix with multiple actuators. The idea is to avoid the need for individual assembly of components on a dot-by-dot basis which is the main cost factor in state-of-the-art technologies.
In TACMON2, the consortium proposed to replace the expensive silicon micro-machining technologies by state-of-art LTCC (Low-Temperature Co-fired Chip) technologies to achieve a significant cost reduction and utilize additional advantages beside the functional replacement of the silicon base.
Approaching the finalization of the project, the development advanced to a status where all technology elements were validated in laboratory environment, moreover the developed software applications could be validated in real educational circumstances.
The current prototype has the following characteristics:
- LTCC actuator chips with matrix of 6x6 dots (36 x 36 dots produced in one batch)
- pneumatic support capable of refreshing the A5 size display within 2 seconds
- multi-channel matrix drive for electrostatic actuation of the individual dots
- further reduced clamping voltage compared to the previous prototypes
- size of integrated prototype: A6
- open source driver for PC and MAC
- software developer kit including training, drawing application and chart converter.
In TACMON2 project we developed an innovative technology for the low-cost realization of a large area Interactive Graphical Tactile Display as a computer periphery for visually impaired people, providing them a new dimension of access also to graphical oriented electronic information and to a wider range of PC applications. The proposed Graphical Tactile Display consists of a fine matrix of tactile (haptic) pins accessible for the human touch sense, thus for visually impaired people. Furthermore, this technology provides European SMEs not only a highly marketable product but opens larger markets in software for learning, leisure and Internet communication for use with TACMON2.
The main innovation of the TACMON2 core technology is the conceptual utilization of designs and technologies enabling batch production of the tactile matrix with multiple actuators. The idea is to avoid the need for individual assembly of components on a dot-by-dot basis which is the main cost factor in state-of-the-art technologies.
In TACMON2, the consortium proposed to replace the expensive silicon micro-machining technologies by state-of-art LTCC (Low-Temperature Co-fired Chip) technologies to achieve a significant cost reduction and utilize additional advantages beside the functional replacement of the silicon base.
Approaching the finalization of the project, the development advanced to a status where all technology elements were validated in laboratory environment, moreover the developed software applications could be validated in real educational circumstances.
The current prototype has the following characteristics:
- LTCC actuator chips with matrix of 6x6 dots (36 x 36 dots produced in one batch)
- pneumatic support capable of refreshing the A5 size display within 2 seconds
- multi-channel matrix drive for electrostatic actuation of the individual dots
- further reduced clamping voltage compared to the previous prototypes
- size of integrated prototype: A6
- open source driver for PC and MAC
- software developer kit including training, drawing application and chart converter.

Project Context and Objectives:
The aim of TACMON2 was to develop an innovative technology for the low-cost realization of a large area Interactive Graphical Tactile Display as a computer periphery for visually impaired people, providing them a new dimension of access also to graphical oriented electronic information and to a wider range of PC applications. The proposed Graphical Tactile Display consists of a fine matrix of tactile (haptic) accessible for the human touch sense, thus for visually impaired people. The concept of the cost reduction is the application of technologies, which allows batch production of the actuator matrix on the surface without the need for individual assembly of actuators for each tactile dot.
The TACMON2 technology is innovative in the combination of the applied technologies realizing an electrostatic pneumatic hybrid actuator system. A proof of concept has been successfully demonstrated before TACMON2 based on silicon MEMS technology. The aim of the current project was a significant cost reduction by transferring the proofed concept from silicon base to LTCC (Low Temperature Co-fired Ceramics) based technology, as well as by developing a compact and integrated pneumatic support system realized in polymer technology. TACMON2 intends to increase SME competitive advantage in the special needs sector by offering an innovative and cost-effective solution.
There are 7.4 million visually impaired people in the European Union. High unemployment amongst the visually impaired people is a serious social and economic problem for the EU. There is a need for effective assistive technology to facilitate employment of the visually impaired people and for industry to better be able to meet anti-discrimination legislation, as well as to avoid the increasing exclusion from the increasingly visual/graphical oriented of information and communication technologies. EU must quickly address the needs of sector SMEs that provide technological solutions for the disabled.

I. MARKET RELATED OBJECTIVES:
I/1 TACMON2 targets a projected initial selling price of around 9 000 EUR for 80 x 120 dot sized tactile display, with fabrication cost of around 4 000 EUR.
I/2 The proposed technology is also intended to revolutionize the price range of Braille display lines by targeting a cost range of 500 to 900 Euros, which is 1/10 of the price range of currently available products.
I/3 TACMON2 targets to develop a software platform and development kit supporting open source development of new applications for the proposed graphical tactile display.

II. SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL OBJECTIVES:
II/1 To transfer the TACMON concept from silicon to LTCC based technology while keeping the functional performance, as well as to integrate electric wiring in to the LTCC chip.
II/2 To develop a low-cost compact pneumatic support system conceptually integrated into the base plate, which is able to cycle between +2 bar and -0.6 bar pressures.
II/3 To optimize the membrane and thin film structures in order to decrease the required driving voltage below 250 V, while keeping the functional performance.
II/4 Development of a matrix type drive concept for the cost effective electrostatic control suitable even for 80 x 120 dots utilizing the possibilities given by the LTCC technology.
II/5 To integrate the touch sensitive surface to the tactile display system with 2.5 mm resolution allowing direct interactive control input to the PC (replacing mouse).

III. APPLICATION RELATED OBJECTIVES
III/1 The demonstrator prototype will target to demonstrate all scale up technologies, such as seamless integration of multiple LTCC chips to one system.
III/2 The targeted resolution will be a dot spacing of 2.5 mm with an off-plane displacement of at least 0.5 mm compatible with the Braille standards.
III/3 The TACMON2 tactile display will have USB interface and a compatible standardized driver interface allowing its easy integration by commercial screen reader software.
III/4 Development of an open and well-specified software platform in cooperating device driver and basic software modules as an open source development kit to emphasize application software development in exploitation phase.
III/5 Improvement of refresh speed and reduction of pump noise.

IV. TRAINING, DISSEMINATION AND EXPLOITATION OBJECTIVES
IV/1 Taking-up of results by the SMEs will definitely be facilitated, particularly by training, dissemination, knowledge management and IPR protection, as well as defining a business plan to increase the competitiveness of the SME participants as much as possible.
IV/2 Comprehensive training will be designed, prepared and delivered in order to ensure that SME participants will be able to assimilate the results of the project.
IV/3 Non-confidential information about the TACMON project and its results will be disseminated to a wide and relevant audience to extend the impact of the project results.
IV/4 Seminars, workshops, conferences and trade fairs will be identified/organized. The public results will be disseminated also via websites, newsletter, articles and papers.

V. SOCIAL OBJECTIVES
V/1 Better inclusion of the visually impaired people in the labour market, as well as to education, increasing their opportunities and reducing the number of handicapped people in accordance with the European social values.

Project Results:
In TACMON2 project we developed an innovative technology for the low-cost realization of a large area Interactive Graphical Tactile Display as a computer periphery for visually impaired people, providing them a new dimension of access also to graphical oriented electronic information and to a wider range of PC applications. The proposed Graphical Tactile Display consists of a fine matrix of tactile (haptic) pins accessible for the human touch sense, thus for visually impaired people. Furthermore, this technology provides European SMEs not only a highly marketable product but opens larger markets in software for learning, leisure and Internet communication for use with TACMON2.

The project partners of TACMON2 consortium put together their efforts with enthusiasm from the very beginning of the project in order to draw up the system specifications and requirements of the desired prototype, detailing functional specification of the device, design constraints of hardware elements and considers scale-up issues according to the user requirements in a point of usability and compatibility.

The fabrication yield of the devices has been significantly improved. The development started from straight transfer of silicon chip design to LTCC technology and then design was modified to use all LTCC advantages, e.g. possibility of the fabrication of 3D buried pneumatic channels or electrical connections through the whole structure (electrodes on top and solder pads on the bottom of structure).

The first very valuable result of the Low Temperature Co-fired Ceramic (LTCC) development is the fabrication of sophisticated 3D pneumatic buried channels in multilayer LTCC technology and integration of complex electrical wirings with LTCC chips. This achievement is a significant advancement. These integration significantly reduces the complexity and cost of supportive hardware and system integration compared to the original silicon based chips.

The second key achievement of the project is the high surface quality equivalent to the original silicon solution which has been achieved as the result of intense experimental research. Totally 12 versions of LTCC chip designs were developed and validated. The different versions covered structure and material optimizations, as well as 3 different solution approaches for the top electrode layer. In parallel to this also the fabrication technologies have been optimized to achieve the required surface quality. The membrane (PDMS) deposition process was optimized in terms of the thickness uniformity and membrane side surface quality.

The third success of the chip R&D efforts was that an airtight and stable bonding could be successfully achieved between the LTCC chip and the PDMS membrane, after several modifications to the LTCC top surface (the glaze) and optimization of the required special bonding process.

The final achievement of the chip research was its successful functional integration. Many issues have been solved on the way to success. Only one issue remained which could not be solved with the technologies available within the consortium, but the partners were able to identify an external provider having a suitable technology.

In the beginning of the project ATEKNEA has built a test bench to enable the full featured testing and evaluation of singe actuator chips fabricated by CSEM. Several holder adaptations were done in order to test the chips with different sizes and geometry of connectivity. The main parameters evaluated were the quality of the bonding, the stroke, the force per dots and the dielectric clamping. Direct observation via an adapted optical system enabled these measurements and recording of the phenomena related to the membrane deformation.

Beside the research on the actuator chip technology TACMON2 also focused on the development of the surrounding hardware to arrive at a fully integrated display system.

The one of the key results of device hardware development is the new TACMON2 specific pneumatic system. Multiple solution concepts have been investigated and validated by numerical simulation, as well as by investigating the possible realization concepts. The selected concept has been developed, optimized and adapted to the system integration requirements, e.g. leaving open areas for though passing electric connections. Advanced buried channel PCB technologies had to be used for the low cost realization of the pneumatic distribution board. Simple O-ring connection has been foreseen as pneumatic connection to the LTCC chips.

The second key result of the supportive hardware development is the development of a high-voltage capable matrix drive electronics, which fits under the driven tactile matrix within the same area. The drive electronics and the pneumatic system are controlled by an embedded controller providing a USB interface as connection interface to the PC.

The third remarkable result of the surrounding hardware is a tactile matrix compatible touch sensitive surface specifically developed for TACMON2, but also utilisable for the already available tactile display of METEC.

Maybe the most valuable result of hardware development is a conceptually integrated full system integration. This has ben achieved in two steps. At first, a mock-up integration has been made into an off-the-shelf instrument casing to achieve a functional integration. Based on the gained experiences an optimized integration design has been developed including a final ergonomically designed housing. The final design is optimized to minimize building height and weight as requested by the end users during the validation of the first mock-up. In addition, also performance improving optimizations have been done, e.g. shortening the pneumatic channels in order to speed-up actuation time by reducing dead spaces.

All of the prototype components had been finalized and manufactured. Before and after the integration, the components had been tested for proper operation. The post-integration tests were closed with positive results. The final housing gives the form factor for the prototype which is usable and acceptable to the end users. The prototype had been connected to the PC to check the communication in order to display the necessary data and the touch information to be recognised by the software running on the application.

The third big part of the project focused on software development to create a suitable base kit of software modules to support later software development for the TACMON2 platform.

The main product of the software development is the Tacmon2 SDK that allows software development for tactile devices. In addition, a BRLTTY plugin was developed to allow the usage of Tacmon2 devices in software that uses the BRLTTY library. Using the SDK three applications were implemented as first application software examples. As a side project, experiments were performed to retrieve textual and image information from the window of another process to enable their conversion to the tactile display.

As part of the TACMON2 SDK also a device driver has been developed in close collaboration with the firmware development handling the actuator control and the touch-sensitive input data.

To facilitate the usage of the software products of the project, two trainings have been performed.

1) On the one hand the Tactile Training course introduced the use of the tactile trainer application and thought participants how training materials can be produced. The aim of the training application is to training visually impaired end users in the use of a graphical tactile display and the correct interpretation of the displayed graphical information. Interpretation of 2D graphical information solely by touch sense is not a trivial task. This needs systematic training. For this reason it is important that the visually impaired end users get a tool supporting them in the training process, and that day are able to use this tool without support. The training was successful, and beside some identified software bugs there was positive feedback from the end users.

2) On the other hand the SDK development training focused on teaching developers in the usage of the TACMON2 SDK. Participants were guided through the steps of creating an application using the SDK. These included basic operations, like initializing the devices and interacting with a selected device, as well as device specific constrains which have to be considered.

Public information has been published on the TACMON2 website www.tacmon.eu. It contains also a restricted area for consortium members where project documentations is shared between consortium partners.

The consortium management actions took place as planned: after establishing the channels necessary, communication has been running smoothly led by the project coordinator with the active involvement of consortium members. General project meetings have been organized on a six month basis, while technical meetings have been held every 3 months. Beside the meetings, some mutual partner visits took place and Skype discussions were organized. Continuous update and communication have been done on a regular basis towards the Project Officers.
During the M30 final general meeting held on 24-25 February 2015 in Budapest, Hungary the consortium reviewed and discussed the project status as well as the performance and results. SMEs and other partners were satisfied with the work of RTD partners, since most of the associated results were achieved and during the meeting evidences were presented.

The result owning SME partners are motivated to continue with product development and to bring the TACMON2 technology to the market.

Potential Impact:
The originally expected main results of the TACMON2 project were the following: TACMON2 Tactile display technology (core technology), including: technology combination for the LTCC based hybrid tactile actuator, novel integrated pneumatic support system,large area display drive concept for electrostatic control, TACMON2 SDK software development kit. The detailed list of the achieved results are provided in the Final PUDF( D10.3) under the Foreground section of the deliverable. Summarising the list in the PUDF the results were reached with the only exception of the actuator chip that is to be finalised in a continuation project. The other results are achieved on a high development level, two of them are on TRL6, the Tacmon2 Tactile Display technology and the software platform for MS Windows 7, optional Ubuntul and Mac OS X. With the completed device a marketable product will be offered for the blind and visually impaired people and a new product will broaden the market of the Assistive Technology.

Socio-economic impact and wider societal implications: According to the European Blind Union an average of 1 in 30 Europeans experience sight loss. Partially sighted persons are 4 times more than blind people and altogether there are over 30 million blind and partially sighted persons in geographical Europe (nearly 10% of the total visually impaired population). One in three senior citizens over 65 struggles with sight loss as the likeliness of most important eye diseases grow progressively by age. Most cases their vision loss cannot be recovered by common eyeglasses. Furthermore, the population of Europe is getting older in parallel older generations would also like to live an active life it is a crucial task to increase the standard of living of these visually impaired people. According to United Nations’ data from 2012 the proportion of the world population over age 60 is projected to increase from 11 percent today to 22 percent by 2050. Population pyramids, especially in Europe, the U.S. and Canada reports that while elderly population is increasing young people is shrinking. As the population ages, more people will need care and fewer people will be available to provide and pay for the patient-centered care characteristic of Western societies today. Consequently, new solutions will be needed from researchers that develop technologies to assist in elder care (Peterson et al., 2012; Broekens et al., 2009).
Since the device is competing at the Assistive technology (AT) market it is important to highlight the predicted situation of this segment. AT market is projected to grow in Europe in US and also in China mostly due to the above mention tendency of ageing population. The U.S. disabled and elderly assistive technologies market (including glasses and contacts) was valued at $45.9 billion in 2013 and predicted to reach $60.5 billion in 2018, after increasing at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.7%. As a result of these developments the affected groups are living longer independent or semi-independent lives with the help of assistive technologies . The same tendency can be followed in China where the country's 12th five-year plan for the elderly care industry forecast that, between 2011 and 2015, the 60+ sector would increase by an average of 8.6 million a year, topping 221 million (16% of the population) by 2015. Over the next two decades, the average age will increase still further, with the number of over 60+ expected to double by 2030. TACMON2 perfectly fits to the expectations of the changing demographic tendency and as a newly developed high-tech product will serve the well-being and independent living of elderly people.
Social impact
The prior market of TACMON2 has been identified already before the project launch of TACMON and further refined in TACMON2 and was strengthened by project partners such as SONS, FITA and INFOALAP that have daily contact with the visually impaired customers.
Today visually impaired people hardly can afford to buy an expensive tactile device due their limited financial situation. The unemployment statistics implies a correlation between visual impairment and poverty rate. Although in theory the target market is huge since there are 285 million people with visual impairment in the world the consortium had to face with the fact that standard of living of visually impaired people is significantly lower than the average and the employment rate of the visually impaired is fewer than 30% especially in Eastern European countries. The use of TACMON2 contributes to reach a significantly higher employment rate and to a better social integration of visually impaired people. Furthermore, it is also an important fact that there is a huge difference between the countries national health system and its subsidizing net. While in Scandinavia almost 90% of the AT devices for visually impaired people are paid, in Hungary there are only some essential devices that get state support. Therefore, the researchers had to take into consideration the price level of the device, and keep the prices below 10.000€ that proved to be an accepted price for the device. The benefits of TACMON2 technology are evident from both economic, and, in particular, from social point of view.

In line with the employment objectives of Europe 2020 strategy, TACMON2 will help blind people to be able to reach a wider spectrum of work opportunities. The developed assistive technology will contribute to increase of employment rate among visually impaired people in Europe. By providing a novel assisting technology TACMON2 will also help industry and the private sector to comply with EU anti-discrimination legislation, such as the Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 which aims to ensure that discrimination against the disabled is eliminated and equal opportunities for all are promoted. Additionally, product development for the visually impaired people will help EU SMEs to adhere to the Equal Treatment in Employment Regulations of 2004 (Council Directive 2000/78/EC and 2000/43/EC) that reinforces the principle of non-discrimination. Better access to education by facilitating accessibility of the visually impaired people is an important area identified in the EU COM (2003) 650 (Equal opportunities for people with disabilities).

With TACMON2 the Consortium aims to raise the level of accessibility of blind people to computer use to reflect the need for an effective assistive technology device which would facilitate the well-being of blind people while decreasing their exclusion from employment and also the entertaining function of technology. TACMON2 offers a novel possibility for blind people to access visual and graphical oriented information in our multimedia world. Our project will improve quality of life and provide better access to educational possibilities resulting in a better integration to labour market and society.
The proposed Graphical Tactile display offered by TACMON2 intends to decrease the exclusion of these people and develop the technological possibilities in the usage of visual and graphical oriented forms too. The consortium’s main aim is that Braille users can stay compatible with all new tendencies. As an additional goal the members think that it is important to stay open to virtual reality as a secondary target market for TACMON2 since it represented a $810 billion market size in 2012.

Greater inclusion of the visually disabled through the use of TACMON2 technology will contribute to meet the targets established by the Lisbon Strategy stating that an important objective is to raise the participation rates of the disabled in all areas of life. Improved opportunities will have significant benefits to their quality of life with important benefits to their emotional health. Competitive strength of SMEs will be addressed by improving the availability of a technology that enables them to market an innovative product to a wider customer base. It will also facilitate the implementation of the 2004 EU National Action Plans (NAPs) on employment and on social inclusion that reported the need for greater emphasis on mainstreaming of disability in the EU and to facilitate transition into mainstream employment.

List of Websites:
www.tacmon.eu

Contatto

Péter Faragó, (Project Manager)
Tel.: +3617874024
E-mail
Numero di registrazione: 184246 / Ultimo aggiornamento: 2016-06-02
Fonte d'informazione: SESAM