A state-of-the-art interactive tactile interface peripheral will be developed to significantly improve the access of visually impaired persons to modern computer and Internet applications. The peripheral will display tactile diagrams and multi-line Braille, and touch sensitive feedback will be employed for the presentation of interactive documents. Advances in smart materials and their applications will be exploited to produce an array of multiple actuators. Interface and control systems will be developed to support this new technology, allowing connection to a generic IBM compatible PC clone. Software tools will be created to allow conversion of information to a form suitable for tactile display. The project will be conducted with continued feedback from visually impaired IT users and support organisations.
DESCRIPTION OF WORK
The first action of the consortium will be to fully investigate the information technology needs of the visually impaired and the shortcomings of existing technology. Safety, quality, electromagnetic compatibility and cost targets will be set and a full device specification will be drawn up. This document will be used to steer the remaining work packages towards maximising the benefits brought to end-users by the new technology. Research will then be conducted into the best route to the production of an actuator array suitable for use as a tactile display. A full assessment of the suitability of three approaches will first be made, on grounds of their suitability under the specification criteria. An actuator array will then be built. The technology will be based on the novel application of smart materials to produce easily constructible and controllable array of 'dots', with interactive touch sensitive feedback. Development of control systems and driver software will take place. Work will include image and information processing into a form suitable for tactile display. A fully functional and well-documented set of software tools will be delivered to enable software control of the tactile interface. System integration of the array, control systems and support software will then be undertaken, and this will include the design and build of a mechanical enclosure. This will result in the delivery of (a) completed prototype (s). Software tools will be used to develop web access and document display software to demonstrate one of a multitude of uses for the new device. Design verification and evaluation will then be undertaken by a group of representative end users. Final stages of the software development and system integration will run concurrently with this work in order that feedback can be incorporated into the software design.
MS1 - Production of device specification.
MS2 - Choice of actuator technology. It is expected that electro-rheological fluid will be chosen to facilitate the production of a matrix of moving dots.
MS3 - Choice of interface method to PC. The choice will be a made on grounds of convenience and cost and performance.
MS4 - First year project assessment.
MS5 - Choice of protocol for communicating between applications and the device. This choice should allow simple but powerful control of the device features.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
B46 1JT Birmingham