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OSU Develops 'Smart Paint' to Help the Blind

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

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Researchers based out of Ohio State University have developed “smart paint”—a coating that can help the vision impaired navigate increasingly complex urban spaces safely. The key lies in the connection between what is in the paint and the cane a person uses.

Known as “smart paint for networked cities,” the coating is intended to be detected using a “smart cane,” a modified white cane that detects the unique coating and provides door-to-door guidance.

Smart Paint

Ohio State University is working with a number of other institutions on the project, including the Ohio State School for the Blind and Intelligent Material. OSSB has a collection of previous white cane technologies, which enabled researchers to test and refine what their own product would be capable of. Intelligent Material, on the other hand, has worked with OSU for several years in integrating light-converting oxides into polymeric matrices for specific applications.

© / zlikovec

Researchers based out of Ohio State University have developed “smart paint”—a coating that can help the vision impaired navigate increasingly complex urban spaces safely. The key lies in the connection between what is in the paint and the cane a person uses.

Mary Ball-Swartwout, orientation and mobility specialist at the Ohio State School for the Blind, said the smart paint could be added to the built environment easily, at little extra cost. Smart paint that informs users they have reached their destination may take the form of horizontal stripes along sidewalks, while the paints themselves could also be grey or black or even invisible to sighted pedestrians, but would still be detectable by smart canes.

Josh Collins of Intelligent Materials told Government Technology that the company specializes “in the design and manufacturing of rare-earth doped nanocrystals capable of converting light energy up and down the visible spectrum.” The Intelligent Material technology allows up to parts-per-billion sensitivity of detection.

“Beyond converting ceramics in paint, placing a highly sensitive excitation source and detector package at the tip of a moving white cane is truly novel,” Collins noted.

The technology also holds promise for helping airport ground traffic navigate.

OSU researchers will be preparing for a proposal submission to the National Science Foundation at the end of this month. Currently, several acres of smart paint are applied throughout the city of Columbus.


Tagged categories: Coatings Technology; Research and development; Smart coatings

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