SBIR Phase I:Use of EPAM for Tactile Displays and Haptic Actuators

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1014182
Agency Tracking Number: 1014182
Amount: $149,959.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2010
Solitcitation Year: 2010
Solitcitation Topic Code: EA
Solitcitation Number: NSF 09-609
Small Business Information
1310 Rimrock Dr., San Jose, CA, 95120
Duns: 179830547
Hubzone Owned: N
Woman Owned: Y
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Llavan Fernando
 (408) 966-5687
Business Contact
 Llavan Fernando
Title: MEng
Phone: (408) 966-5687
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is to determine the feasibility of tactile products for the blind incorporating SRI International's proprietary Electroactive Polymer Artificial Muscle (EPAM) technology with modern electronics and computer technologies. Such products would significantly enhance the educational and vocational opportunities of the blind. The Phase I research objectives include evaluating 3x3 tactile actuator matrices to determine their suitability for expansion to: a) a 36x12 matrix in a dynamic vibratory mode; and b) a full page Braille display in a static mode. Additional objectives will include determining how this technology can be incorporated in products for blind people that provide access to text documents, graphs, maps, Internet, email, screen displays. The research will involve building and testing tactile stimulator arrays in vibratory and static modes to determine the: 1) capability to support the required amplitudes and forces; 2) dynamic power consumption; 3) required voltages; 4) scalability to the desired matrix size; and 5) manufactureability including cost and automation. The feasibility of high voltage drivers, and the incorporation of other components into the desired package will also be researched. The anticipated results will determine the feasibility of these revolutionary tactile display products for the blind. The broader impacts/commercial potential of the research is based on providing technology that uses the sense of touch to substitute for, or to augment, vision and hearing. The most effective tactile display has been that in the Optacon, which consisted of a 24x6 array of piezoelectric reeds. Including the pins that contacted the finger, this array had 288 hand-assembled discrete components and 432 hand-wired solder joints on 6 overlapping planes. The result was an expensive to build display that consumed considerable space. EPAM technology promises to reduce the discrete components to a single monolithic polymeric sheet with individually addressable patterned areas, so cost and space are reduced while greatly improving manufactureability. Market segments for blindness products are schools and universities, state departments of rehabilitation, corporations, government agencies, private organizations, and individuals. A goal is to improve the potential commercial value in the blindness field by reducing the price so the individual market segment is larger. The societal impact in the blindness field would be in their increased employment and independence. The research would enhance scientific and technological understanding in the capabilities of the human sense of touch and how to build systems that effectively use it.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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