Sight on Call: Remote Services for the Blind and Low Vision

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: N/A
Contract: 4R44EY018781-02
Agency Tracking Number: EY018781
Amount: $717,044.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2009
Solitcitation Year: 2009
Solitcitation Topic Code: N/A
Solitcitation Number: PHS2009-2
Small Business Information
1168 Arch St, Berkeley, CA, 94708
Duns: 014447945
Hubzone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 (530) 686-8148
Business Contact
Phone: (617) 407-2057
Research Institution
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): This is a proposal to build an on-demand assistance service atop the existing mobile phone infrastructure. Something like a GM OnStar service for the Blind and Low-vision, Sight on Call will provide help from a remote, distributed assistant workforce. With this project, Blindsight will bring a new capability to the blind and moderate low-vision market. The impact on the lives of the millions of low-vision and elderly, if the project meets it goals, will be significant - an entirely new option for getting assistance on-demand, and at reasonable cost. Users of the system will speak to live operators while sending images of their surroundings and GPS location information via a camera equipped cell phone. Sighted operators can then assist in a wide range of mobility and orientation tasks such as finding a bus stop or street address, as well as many daily tasks such as shopping and paying bills. Phase I of the project will entail building and testing a prototype of the system. The system will be considered feasible if subjects are able to complete a range of tasks with the prototype within demanding predefined time limits and if a majority of them report that having the device represents a significant advantage (in terms of time, stress or discomfort) over being forced to rely on other alternative methods. In Phase II all key components of the service will be developed and tested including cell phone software, remote service center infrastructure, operator hiring and training, interaction protocol development and operator console development. At each stage automation will be introduced when possible to increase operator productivity and lower cost. 60 human subjects will then carry out large scale real world testing with the developed system. This will drive additional development and testing to maximize operator efficiency and user satisfaction. Once proved feasible, a full-scale service bureau providing the Sight on Call service is planned to launch within 6 months of the end of the proposed project period. Estimated cost for the premium service, targeting affluent seniors with moderate to severe low vision, is under 1 per minute of use, based on current call center cost metrics. In parallel, a volunteer-based distributed service is proposed, which can provide the same service at an estimated cost of 30/month for unlimited use. The project is of interest to the health care venture capital community if and when certain milestones are achieved.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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