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National Science Foundation Awards Grant to Zone24x7 and SRI International to Advance Tactile Devices for the Visually Impaired

11/19/2010 6:29:31 AM

SAN JOSE and MENLO PARK, Calif., Nov. 18, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Zone24x7 and SRI International have received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to determine the technical feasibility of incorporating SRI's electroactive polymer artificial muscle (EPAM) technology into a low-cost, mobile device that improves access to text documents, graphs, maps, and the Internet by producing high definition tactile images for the visually impaired. EPAM, a smart material technology developed at SRI, has unique vibrotactile properties.

"SRI is excited to create products that can improve the quality of life for the visually impaired," said Harsha Prahlad, Ph.D., senior mechanical engineer at SRI. "Such products would offer easier access to information and could significantly enhance educational and vocational opportunities."

The project will include the development of a prototype device that will be a simplified, scaled-down version of the Optacon, an electromechanical device developed more than 40 years ago. The Optacon enables people who are visually impaired to read printed materials that have not been transcribed into Braille. The device uses a camera and a tactile screen to create vibratory images of print on a page that can be felt by fingertip.

As the project's prime contractor, Zone24x7, with help from the SRI team, will study how EPAM can be incorporated into products for the visually impaired. Zone24x7 will consult with Dr. James C. Bliss, a key member of the original Optacon development team, on product related issues.

"Incorporating SRI's EPAM technology could make owning tactile based products considerably more affordable," said Llavan Fernando, CEO of Zone24x7. "For over 20 years, the actuator technology of tactile devices has been piezo ceramics, which is complex and expensive to implement. EPAM is considerably simpler to integrate and could be manufactured at significant lower cost. Besides products for the visually impaired, I foresee applications in other markets such as secure transaction terminals."

For more information about Zone24x7 visit

For more information about SRI's EPAM technology visit

About Zone24x7

Zone24x7 is a leading provider of global technology innovation services with world class partnerships. Since the inception in 2003, Zone24x7 benchmarks the finest technological capabilities while delivering innovation with profound industry and business process expertise. Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., Zone24x7 operates in the USA, Malaysia and Sri Lanka providing technology solutions to leading clients around the world. Zone24x7 is a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner and a Windows Embedded Partner. Zone24x7 has been certified as a CMMI Level 3 for its process maturity, successful project execution and delivery excellence. Zone24x7 prides itself in having the vision, leadership and a world class team to drive creativity and innovation.

About SRI International

Silicon Valley-based SRI International is one of the world's leading independent research and technology development organizations. SRI, which was founded by Stanford University as Stanford Research Institute in 1946 and became independent in 1970, has been meeting the strategic needs of clients and partners for more than 60 years. Perhaps best known for its invention of the computer mouse and interactive computing, SRI has also been responsible for major advances in networking and communications, robotics, drug discovery and development, advanced materials, atmospheric research, education research, economic development, national security, and more. The nonprofit institute performs sponsored research and development for government agencies, businesses, and foundations. SRI also licenses its technologies, forms strategic alliances, and creates spin-off companies. In 2009, SRI's consolidated revenues, including its wholly owned for-profit subsidiary, Sarnoff Corporation, were approximately $470 million. Sarnoff Corporation, a leader in vision, video, and semiconductor innovations, will be fully integrated into SRI effective January 1, 2011.

SOURCE SRI International

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