SBIR Research Preparations
We consistently conduct research to better understand our field and develop our expertise and intellectual property. Byron Johnson has been leading preparations for a research effort that will help us cost effectively test and create new tactile symbols. We hypothesize that tactile reading is like visual reading through frosted glass, or while visually impaired. As such, by using computer simulation to create a degraded image that is similar to the experienced in both tactile exploration and visual impairment, we can quickly and inexpensively test new tactile symbols and graphics. Byron has been busy creating assets that can generate images along two continuums of degradation - limiting contrast and / or blurring the images. These images reside in a database that feeds the test monitor. The subject will give their responses to the images. Responses will be collected by the program and fed into a confusion matrix for analysis. Error rates and common confustions will be evaluated. Based on the findings, designs and design features will be prioritized for use with new alphabets or graphical symbols.
Through our connection to Emily Sauer of Oh-Nut (a fantastic Start up that also Kickstarted), we were introduced Andrew Brase, a design and prototyping professional who is managing our silicon keyboard overlay design and production. We had extensive discussions regardin the effort. We have recently recruited him to taken over the effort as our staff's bandwidth has been curtailed. Furthermore, he is outstanding. Over the next two months, the overlays will be produced and shipped to customers.
Jon Bobrow discussions
We met with Jonathan Bobrow, an advisor and collaborator who leads the game development company Move38. He also completed a Kickstarter in the spring. He will be manufacturing his products in China and had helpful advice and insights into design for manufacturing. His products are beautiful. They look like something Apple would launch.
We also discussed general business challenges and agreed to establish a peer-to-peer advisory group that will meet at NEW INC. I'll share more on that later.
Jim Fructherman Communications and Retirement
Through Charles King of Housing Works we reconnected with Jim Fructherman, a legend and a pioneer in our field. Among the companies and initiatives he has created is BookShare, which enables people who have a print disability to access a giant library of the latest books. We have in regular disucssions with foks at Benetech and touched base with Jim over the possibility for additional collaboration. We were especially keen to work with him and/or Benetech on a "Moon Shot" to create a dense tactile graphical display. Jim shared that he is retiring and that Betsy Beaumon will be taking the reigns of the company. Others are working on a tactile display. We congratulate both of them on their milestones!
Related to the matter, in partnership with Sassy Outwater Wright, of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, we are advocating that greater resources be devoted to this effort. In effect, the effort would be a "Moon Shot." By our calculations, less than $3 million per year are devoted towards a new tactile display. A Moon Shot would be $25 million per year. Within 10 years, we expect that a robust device would be commercialized.
Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) Technology Meeting
On Saturday the 17th we attended an FFB sponsored technology forum at the Andrew Heiskill Library for the Blind. Chancey Fleet spoke, as did Dorrie Rush of OEPatients, and Fernando Albertorio. Dorrie discussed the suite of new apps for people who have a visual impairment. Fernado demostrated the Sunu Band, a navigation device for people who have a visual impairment.
We also spoke with Allen Bromberg about legal representation. His groundbreaking work for both Social Impact investors and entrepreneurs has helped build our community's best practices, and enabled entrepreneurs and investors to build common ground and great companies.
Our current consul, Paul Oakley, who has been with us for ten years, has recently reduced his legal work in order to better serve the start up he joined, named Ori. They have a fantastic modular furniture innovation that allows people to seamlessly shift a central piece of furniture from one side of a room to another, thereby better utilizing an apartment's space.
We contiue to collaborate with two product development companies (PBCs) to develop our Touchprinter. Our partnership and licensing representative at HP, Paul Barton, recommended that we seek out the PBCs for the final stages, as they can add custom firmware, help with design for manufacturing and manufacturing assessment. The PDCs will submit proposals for collaboration and we will engage one of them.