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Personal Assistive Device for BLIND and visually impaired people (BLINDPAD)
Start date: Jan 1, 2014, End date: Dec 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

For visually impaired people it is difficult to digitally get graphical contents increasingly conveyed through sight. The sense of touch can potentially bridge the gap, as it is crucial - in absence of vision - for understanding abstract concepts and acquiring information about the surroundings. Examples are learning at school and developing mental maps in orientation and mobility daily tasks.However, available touch screens have limited or no tactile feedback at all. The potential and the market of tactile displays is largely unexploited, although there is a clear demand from users: these devices need to become more versatile, cheaper, portable and socially acceptable.The objective the project is to make graphical contents accessible through touch by building and field-testing a Personal Assistive Device for BLIND and visually impaired people (BLINDPAD).BLINDPAD will put veridical touch-based information into the hands of users, exploiting and enhancing their residual sensory abilities.The BLINDPAD will exploit the most effective between two new technologies of different risk level: MEMS nanocomposite membranes actuated by magnetic micro-coils and dry ionic electroactive actuators (bucky gels) operated at low voltages. The technologies will be developed, compared in terms of actuation force, resolution, safety, power consumption and reliability.By adopting a user-centered approach within an accessible and usable ecosystem, we will assess, with serious games, how the BLINDPAD can help visually impaired people in two paramount use cases: touch-based learning of symbolic content at school age; orientation and mobility skills indoor and outdoor.BLINDPAD will be a personal, portable and cheap solution to improve knowledge and independence, thus increasing chances of employment, of social inclusion and, ultimately, of a better quality of life.

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