Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses often employ graphs, diagrams, and figures, putting students with visual disabilities at a significant disadvantage. The company Livescribe has created a smartpen and paper technology that aims to bring these subjects to life for blind students.

Andy Van Schaack, a lecturer at Vanderbilt University, and Joshua Miele, a researcher at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, have received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to apply the new smartpen technology. Their goal is to enable students and teachers to produce and explore figures through touch and sound, using an affordable and portable technology.

The Livescribe smartpen recognizes handwritten marks through a camera inside its tip that focuses on a minute pattern of dots printed on paper. It captures over 100 hours of audio through a built-in microphone and plays audio back through a built-in speaker or 3D recording headset. Van Schaack and Miele will use a prototype of the Livescribe smartpen and a Sewell Raised Line Drawing Kit - a film that is deformed when written on with a pen, creating raised drawings. Students will be able to touch a hand-drawn figure with their smartpen to hear audio explanations of its features.

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