Tracy Young April 8, 2004
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
KSC Release No. 18-04NASA Project Manager Strives To Create Visual Aids Of The Future
Legally blind for more than 22 years, Paul Mogan, a Spaceport Engineering and Technology Project Manager at KSC, isn't going to let his blindness stop him from helping NASA achieve its vision for the future.
Mogan and a team of research partners are working to create visual aids for people with sight disabilities. The device they plan to create would help millions of people worldwide and further advance NASA's progress in science and technology.
The invention is being designed to resemble a pair of sunglasses that would enlarge and enhance images and provide wayfinding, hazard warnings and much more.
"The ideal 'ultimate visual aid' would recognize speech, speak text to the user, and use a combination of these features with GPS and wireless Internet services to guide visually impaired people, place phone calls and magnify images," said Mogan. "It would be stylish, easy to use, very versatile, portable and reasonably priced."
Mogan and his primary research partners, West Virginia University and Georgia Institute of Technology, have been working on the project for more than a year.
The innovations also would help Mogan, who has Stargardt's Syndrome, a form of macular dystrophy that begins early in life. The condition affects more than 25,000 Americans and often impairs vision.
Regardless of personal benefits, KSC is sure to gain from the project as well. The visual aids aim to increase NASA exposure and allow visually impaired people to directly access NASA's scientific, engineering and educational information. Supporting safety, this technology also can enhance NASA's visual inspection systems.
A non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement between NASA, Enhanced Vision Systems in California and Georgia Tech allowed for the initial work. Technology for mass consumer markets, such as smaller computers and lighter batteries, is also easing the development of this device.
"We are trying to "ride the wave' of technology currently being pushed by the large consumer market," said Mogan. "These and other factors are fueling major technical developments and driving down prices on hardware. This will greatly enable what we are trying to accomplish."
Supporting this project, the team attends related conferences, tests models such as computing and head-mounted display technology, and works with exceptional partners such as Dr. Lawrence DeLucas, the only visual specialist to visit space. This effort created video capture capability for portable vision aids. Additionally, the group is forming the Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for vision technology development, which is scheduled for completion next year at West Virginia University.
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