Research Foundation News

April 10, 2019

Purdue-developed technology that helps visually impaired ‘see’ digital images to be presented on Capitol Hill


Purdue represents one of only 20 university-affiliated startups to present technologies developed from federal funds at D.C. innovation and entrepreneurship event. 

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – HaptImage LLC, a Purdue University-affiliated startup, will present an assistive technology that helps people with visual impairments “see” digital images at the 2019 University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Showcase in Washington, D.C.

The event, which will take place in the Rayburn House Office Building, is held annually by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities to highlight federally funded university research that advances entrepreneurship, innovation and economic opportunities. Startups were selected on criteria including the use of federal research funds to create and commercialize technologies to improve lives and contribute to the global society.

Ting Zhang and Shruthi Suresh HaptImage co-founders Ting Zhang and Shruthi Suresh use their system to “touch” and interact with digital blood cells on screen. (Purdue Research Foundation image/Oren Darling) Download image

The HaptImage technology employs an algorithm that changes digital images into physical sensations that impersonate the would-be exterior of a portrayed object. Users hold a joystick that resembles an ink pen that makes vibrations and resistance in correspondence with the digital object’s shape and feel while users move the joystick around.

What this means is that students can interact in a classroom setting in real time. Previously, such students needed an on-screen 3D-printed mockup or an audio description to aid their learning.

“The technology helps students interact in real time while in a classroom and creates ‘touch-based learning.’ That is critical for all students, but especially for students who are blind or have limited vision. Real-time access to images is crucial to allow social integration and education for individuals who are blind or with limited vision,” said Shruthi Suresh, a doctoral student in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. “The technology not only helps with social integration for students, it also will help individuals with visual impairments pursue image-dependent careers, such as architecture, and access social media platforms, such as Instagram.”

Click here to watch a video about the HaptImage technology.

Suresh co-founded HaptImage with Ting Zhang, a doctoral student at Purdue University’s School of Industrial Engineering. Brad Duerstock, a professor with the School of Industrial Engineering and the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, is a co-inventor of the technology and serves as CEO of HaptImage. Juan Wachs, a professor in Purdue’s School of Industrial Engineering, also is a co-inventor and serves as scientific officer for HaptImage. The technology is licensed through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.

Haptic device Technology developed by HaptImage allows those with limited vision to “see” digital images through an algorithm that changes digital images into physical sensations that impersonate the would-be exterior of a portrayed object. (Purdue Research Foundation image/Oren Darling) Download image

“We were inspired to develop the technology by Greg Williams, who is a research assistant in Dr. Duerstock’s lab and who is visually impaired,” Zhang said. “He was having difficulties viewing images related to his chemistry major and we wanted to do something to make it easier for him and other like him who face this extra challenge.”

Featured congressional and agency attendees for the event include Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chairwoman, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee; Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma), ranking member, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee; Andrei Iancu, under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office; and Phillip Singerman, associate director for innovation and industry services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The HaptImage startup team is preparing to launch its device in the fall via a tiered subscription.

HaptImage works with the Purdue Foundry, a startup accelerator in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. The startup has received funding through several Purdue startup programs including:

  • An Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund $20,000 tier-one Black Award.
  • WomenIN Tech Pitch Competition, first place for $5,000 in cash and $12,500 in entrepreneurial support.
  • Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition Social Entrepreneurship Track, second place, $10,000.

The technology aligns with Purdue's Giant Leaps celebration of the university’s global advancements made in health, space, artificial intelligence and sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. Those are the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues. 

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at otcip@prf.org.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. Managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Purdue Foundry was co-named a top recipient at the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Program by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org.

For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org.

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, 765-588-3340, casequin@prf.org 
 
Sources: 

Shruthi Suresh, suresh9@purdue.edu

Ting Zhang, zhan1013@purdue.edu

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