Research Highlights / Full Story

A Resource for Innovators of All Shapes and Sizes

A key facet of innovation is the identification, capture, and development of intellectual property (IP), whether the IP is a patent, copyright, or trademark. Innovation is realized when these novel technologies, designs, and inventions provide commercial value to society and creators. The development and commercialization of university IP, through technology licenses, can enrich the academic as well as financial returns to students, faculty, and staff.

"By properly assessing the value of innovations being developed on campus we can help creators maximize the impacts of their inventions and potentially promote business expansion and economic development," notes William Bond, director of RIT's Intellectual Property Management Office (IPMO). "We also assist potential entrepreneurs in navigating the IP assessment and patenting process, which can be a major factor in the success of a startup."

PMO assists faculty, staff, and students in investigating potential patents, developing patent applications, and negotiating licenses with corporate partners. They also provide training for researchers on the steps they can take to properly manage IP they create and analyze the uniqueness and marketability of their research.

"A key component of innovation is determining whether what you have created is novel," adds Bond. "We assist the RIT community in determining how its research and development can be applied and what commercialization avenues have the greatest potential for success."

Over the years, IPMO has assisted in licensing numerous technologies to businesses around the world. It has also aided in the creation of several spinoff companies, including Vnomics, a maker of fleet-monitoring software for the commercial trucking industry, and Black Box Biometrics, a manufacturer of sensor devices designed to detect potential brain injury.

One of RIT's most successful technology transfer efforts has been C-Print, a copyrighted software package and captioning system developed at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), which has greatly improved communication for deaf students in the classroom. The software package has been distributed to numerous school districts and service agencies around the world and current enhancements of the technology may only further its use in the future.

Increasing Communication Access

C-Print was first developed at RIT in the late 1980s as a way to help deaf and hard-of-hearing students understand what's being said in the classroom.

At the time, the main form of classroom captioning was CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation), which uses trained stenographers and courtroom equipment to provide verbatim notes in classrooms. The stenographer produces a display of the spoken words and the students may glance on a nearby computer screen to see what was typed to better follow along. Although CART is still used in schools around the country, the cost can often be prohibitive and it is difficult to find qualified stenographers because there are so few trained individuals available, especially in rural areas.

C-Print was created as a potential alternative to CART. The initial project was led by Michael Stinson, now professor at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf's Center for Access Technology, as well as NTID colleagues Pamela Francis, Jeanette Henderson, and Barbara McKee. The concept was the same as other captioning systems—having a hearing individual provide information for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the classroom—but the information was a meaning-for-meaning translation of the spoken word rather than verbatim.

Instead of typing in every word uttered, C-Print captionists type in phonetic abbreviations that are then translated into wording by system software. For example, typing "kfe" will lead to "coffee" appearing on the screen of the student. This saves the captionist time and keystrokes while allowing the deaf student to keep pace with the classroom discussion. Through research from a 1993 grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education, C-Print's internal dictionary was refined to enhance the number and quality of its phonetic abbreviations. Today, the C-Print general dictionary contains a host of commonly used words, and technical terms can be added as necessary to assist captionists and students in more STEM-focused settings.

Improving Learning and Integration

Kaitlin Hoyt, 21, a biology major from Verbank, N.Y., had her first experience with C-Print her first day as a freshman at RIT.

"It was quite the experience," she says. "I didn't know what C-Print would look like or how it would work. But it was really cool to see it in action the first time.

"I find it really helpful because it makes it easier to catch everything the professor says," Hoyt continues. "If I miss a word while lip reading or while taking notes, I can look down at the C-Print computer screen and catch what I missed."

Hoyt says C-Print also helps her communicate with her fellow students. "If I can't understand what they're saying, the captionist usually does and types it out for me. It's a lot easier than saying 'What?' all the time!"

In 2005, a research prototype of the C-Print software that works with a tablet PC was added to C-Print's portfolio to further expand the information available to student users. The tablet prototype allows graphics, including charts and formulas, to be drawn and shown on the screen. Voice recognition technology also has been experimented with&8212;using the captionist to re-speak the spoken words into a dictation mask.

Expanding Use at RIT and Beyond

Demand for C-Print services is increasing at RIT, not only because more deaf and hard-of-hearing students are cross-regis- tered in RIT's other eight colleges, but because more students arrive without knowing sign language and wouldn't benefit from an interpreter.

Last year, RIT's 55 captionists provided 22,600 hours of real-time classroom captioning. The numbers are increasing steadily, from 15,000 hours in 2007 to 19,000 hours in 2010, says Rico Peterson, NTID's assistant dean and director of Access Services. Personnel have been added to accommodate the demand for C-Print services.

"Now students want both interpreters and C-Print captioning," Stinson says. "The notes produced with C-Print are just as important."

And the benefits of C-Print aren't limited to classrooms. It is requested and used in nonacademic settings on the RIT campus, including sorority meetings, open houses, student club meetings, orientation programs, and financial aid sessions.

In addition, the system is now utilized by schools and agencies across the country and has become one of the more popular captioning systems in use. In fact, more than 20 years after its inception, C-Print is now used in classrooms in 48 states, and more than 1,800 captionists have been trained to use the technology, Stinson says.

"The reward is that you really are helping deaf students in the classroom," Stinson adds.

C-Print 2.0

What already is a good accessibility tool will become even better, as more changes are in store for C-Print. The next generation will help align captions with videos and other graphics.

"The next generation of C-Print software currently is under development," says James J. DeCaro, director of NTID's Center on Access Technology. "If you like C-Print, you haven't seen anything yet."

Testing is underway for a mobile C-Print service. Funded by the National Science Foundation's Research in Disabil- ities Education program, 30 students nationwide—20 at RIT, and the rest at Tulsa Community College, Louisiana State University, and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee—have experi- mented with C-Print mobile the past two years.

The system is more suited for active situations, where students aren't sitting in one spot, but moving where it would be difficult to continuously stay near a computer screen.

To provide remote service, teachers wear a Bluetooth microphone, and the C-Print captionist—who is in another location—types in the same way as when providing in-class service. The student sees the typed information on the screen of a smartphone, iPad, or another type of communication device.

"What is unique about this is the ability to view the information on many different devices," Stinson says.

Making a Difference for Students

So far, C-Print mobile is getting rave reviews from the students who have tested it.

"I couldn't understand why the mobile version wasn't used before!" says Edgar Triano, an RIT/NTID student from Spring Valley, N.Y. "It's not only easier to use, but it takes up less space and can easily be moved around, which is extremely convenient for me, especially for lab assignments where I constantly have to move around."

Stinson also sees a potential for remote captioning, where the captionist is in another city than the teacher or student, allowing rural districts to take advantage of services that may be miles or states away.

As technological advancements are created and adopted to provide better access in classrooms for deaf and hard- of-hearing students, an increase in their participation and motivation for learning can be expected.

"C-Print really does make a difference," Stinson says. "Students feel like they have support that helps them succeed."