The VEMI lab on the College of Maine earned third place in a nationwide competitors and an invite to the White Home for growing an inclusive smartphone software program platform that can present navigational help to individuals with visible impairment and seniors who wish to use self-driving automobiles for ride-sharing and hailing companies.  

VEMI will obtain $300,000 for profitable the prize within the second part of the U.S. Division of Transportation’s Inclusive Design Problem for its Autonomous Car Assistant (AVA) smartphone expertise. VEMI leads the group designing the AVA platform, often known as the Autonomous Car Analysis Group (AVRG), which additionally contains collaborators from Northeastern College and Colby School. 

For its problem, the DOT sought proposals for accessible and inclusive design options that will assist individuals with disabilities use autonomous automobiles for employment and important companies. VEMI was invited to take part in Stage II of the problem after being named a semifinalist within the first part.  

First- and second-place winners within the competitors had been Purdue College and AbleLink Good Dwelling Applied sciences, respectively.

The prizes within the Inclusive Design Problem had been introduced July 26 as a part of the DOT’s celebration for the thirty second Anniversary of the People with Disabilities Act, often known as the ADA. VEMI director Richard Corey and chief analysis scientist Nicholas Giudice are taking part in a ceremony on the division’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., adopted by a coverage session hosted by the Workplace of Public Engagement and Workplace of Science and Know-how Coverage July 27 on the White Home. 

“That is thrilling nationwide recognition of one of many excellent, ongoing analysis and growth initiatives from our VEMI Lab,” says UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy. “Such innovation addressing wants, together with these for fairness and inclusion, and offering crucial developments in expertise are amongst our R1 analysis college achievements.”

“The entire VEMI Lab workforce is ecstatic to obtain the assist and nationwide recognition for our innovation,” Corey says. “This prize will assist assist our college students who’re main the cost in human automobile collaboration analysis and accessible expertise at VEMI. Working with the IDC workforce on the U.S. DOT has been a delight and we’re deeply honored to have been chosen as high tier winners.” 

Designing the venture and incomes the prize for it was a collaborative effort from VEMI workers, college students and exterior companions, particularly Grant Beals, Paul Fink, Aubree Nygaard, and Raymond Perry from VEMI; Xue (Shelley) Lin, Pu Zhao and Yushu Wu from Northeastern College; and Stacy Doore and Matthew Maring from Colby School. 

AVA will assist customers request a automobile, discover it, enter it, exit it and journey to their chosen vacation spot. It supplies a multisensory interface that gives customers steering by means of audio and haptic, or touch-based, suggestions and high-contrast visible cues. To offer the performance, researchers utilized GPS, LiDAR, Gyroscope and Accelerometer expertise; real-time pc imaginative and prescient through the smartphone digital camera; machine studying; synthetic intelligence and different software program. 

Customers will create a profile in AVA that displays their accessibility wants and current strategies of navigation so the software program can discover appropriate transportation for them. When the automobile arrives, AVA will information the consumer to it utilizing the digital camera and augmented actuality (AR), which supplies an overlay of the setting by superimposing high-contrast strains over the picture on the smartphone display to focus on the trail, and verbal steering resembling compass instructions, road names, addresses, close by landmarks and different indicators. The software program additionally will pinpoint environmental hazards, together with low-contrast curbs, visitors cones and overhanging obstructions like branches and man wires, by emphasizing them with contrasting strains and vibrations when customers method them. It should then assist customers discover the door deal with to enter the automobile awaiting them. It additionally makes use of the identical features to assist the consumer when exiting their automobile to seek out their vacation spot. 

AVA will supply accessible modules with simulations that prepare customers not solely how one can use the appliance, but additionally coaching on how one can work together with experience sharing and hailing companies with self-driving automobiles when an individual is not obtainable to offer help. For future initiatives, researchers plan to develop extra software program that can enable riders to make use of the expertise to attach with the automobile management programs whereas using. These instruments will embrace multisensory maps, context-aware gesture interactions and software programming interfaces, all of which can assist in-cabin accessibility. 

Watch the video presentation about AVA ready by VEMI Lab researchers for the DOT’s Inclusive Design Problem to study extra. 

“Autonomous automobiles have the potential to be a really sport altering, disruptive expertise for bettering accessible, inclusive transportation for individuals with visible impairments and older adults,” says Giudice, additionally a UMaine professor of spatial computing and congenitally blind. “Nonetheless, to succeed, there are loads of challenges to beat first. Our preliminary analysis and growth of AVA within the first IDC semi-finalist spherical has made important progress in addressing present limitations, however I’m most enthusiastic about our future growth made potential by this finalist IDC prize, which can result in a sturdy, end-to-end inclusive journey answer that integrates with different accessible apps and platforms.” 

The AVA venture builds on a Nationwide Science Basis grant led by Giudice and Corey on belief constructing and human-vehicle collaboration with autonomous automobiles, in addition to a seed grant-funded, joint effort between UMaine and Northeastern College to enhance accessibility, security and situational consciousness inside self-driving automobiles. Analysis on each initiatives goals to develop a brand new mannequin of human-AI automobile interplay to make sure individuals with visible impairments and seniors can higher perceive what their autonomous automobile does throughout their travels, and so the automobiles can successfully talk with them — work that will likely be instrumental for informing future AVA growth on this Inclusive Design Problem prize. 

AVA serves as one instance of the broad AI, computing and knowledge programs analysis VEMI scientists and others are conducting at UMaine. Their work exemplifies the analysis and public service missions of the top-tier R1 college, a designation UMaine earned earlier this yr from the Carnegie Classification of Establishments of Increased Training. 

VEMI, co-founded by Corey and Giudice in 2008, explores completely different options for fixing unmet challenges with expertise. Prime areas of analysis and growth pertain to self-driving automobiles, the design of bio-inspired instruments to enhance human-machine interplay and performance, and new information-access expertise to enhance inclusive environmental consciousness, spatial studying and wayfinding for each sighted and visually impaired navigators.  

Contact: Marcus Wolf, 207.581.3721; [email protected]