Mainebiz advances UNAR’s Small Business Innovation Research award
Mainebiz shared a media release about UNAR Labs, a University of Maine spinout company that develops assistive technology for blind and visually impaired (BVI) users, being awarded $300,000 under the National Institute of Health’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I program. The company plans to prototype an information access system that would help educational institutions develop accessible learning materials more efficiently. “More than 60 to 70 percent of digital content is completely inaccessible to visually impaired users — think of maps, images, photos, Facebook, Twitter,” says Hari Palani, co-founder and CEO of UNAR Labs. “We want to provide a bridge and enable BVI users with access to all this information.” UNAR Labs’ core technology is a software platform called Midlina that translates visual graphical information into an accessible multisensory graphic that BVI users can touch, feel and hear using the haptic, vibration and audio features built in to digital smart devices (phones/tablets). The SBIR award will allow Portland-based UNAR Labs to focus on improving the process to translate textbooks and other educational materials — including the graphical components — into a multisensory format that makes them fully accessible for BVI students. Palani arrived at UMaine in 2011 to conduct graduate research on accessible technology with professor of spatial informatics Nicholas Giudice, co-founder of UNAR Labs.