This year’s 2017 Assistive Technology for Persons with Disabilities Conference, referred to in verbal shorthand as CSUN, held a lot for everyone. As soon as one walked into the exhibit hall, there were people everywhere! So many conversations about the latest and greatest to hit the technological land, most products to be released later this year.
Since covering everything I saw would take until the products are released, let’s do a bird’s-eye view and hit those highlights!
Taking an Inside Look at the InsideOne
As soon as I saw it, I knew this was true innovation. Coming to us from where I believe to be France, Inside Vision brings us the InsideOne. A Windows 10 tablet with 32 cells of braille, running NVDA, with USB functionality and a headphone jack. what’s so innovative about that, you ask? The keyboard! That’s what. This tablet has slots in the glass where you put your fingers, laid out much like a traditional Perkins-style braille keyboard.
When Braille Screen Input became a reality on iOS, some dove into it and mastered it, in what seemed like record time. For the rest of us, we were met with a lot of uncertainty and there was a learning curve. This tablet, while it does take some time to get used to putting your fingers in finger-sized grooves for the keyboard, and gaining orientation, once you do, brailling becomes so much easier. It’s always been a little interesting when brailling on a touch screen as to where to put your fingers. This tablet takes away that confusion by what they’ve done in building positions for your fingers directly into the glass.
If you want, you can also use a Bluetooth or USB keyboard and then it becomes a tablet you can go to town and enjoy using.
For a more in-depth look at the description and links to the website of the developers, my buddy James Oates has
written this masterpiece on the InsideOne
Read and enjoy!
Gettin’ Sporty with the HIMS Polaris
The bees were a-buzzin’ about what the HIMS announcement could possibly be on the first day the exhibit hall was open. They wasted no time in delighting everyone with the news of their new note-taker: The Braille Sense Polaris.
Running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, it’s the Braille Sense amped up and ready to go for the next generation! With a very light footprint, 13MP camera, and more, this device has quite a lot to offer. Packing Bluetooth 4.2, USB 3, HDMI out to connect to a monitor, you have many options by which to access your information, and connect with others. Working seamlessly with Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Classroom, the Polaris is establishing itself as a note-taker that wants to be relevant in your life. Whether you’re putting the finishing touches on a spreadsheet for a presentation at work while polishing off a doughnut, or collaborating with other students to finish off that group project before senior prom.
After all your hard work, educationally or vocationally, you can veg out and connect the Braille Sense Polaris to a TV using Chromecast and watch The Price Is Right. Is that show even still on? … Never mind.
Enjoy working or using this machine as an entertainment hub for watching movies, listening to music, or reading that all-important book.
Something I noticed and was quite impressed with, in the few minutes I explored the device, it was very responsive. The keyboard, (something HIMS has done very well with on previous machines) was quiet and had very good action. When a key was pressed, you knew it, and could continue typing at a quick clip.
The media buttons on the front can be defined by a user to perform certain actions with the device.
As there’s always more to big product releases like this, I leave you in the hands of the lovely writers over at HIMS. You can download the brochure for the device and learn all you can.
The device is said to be shipping in May of 2017, so keep a lookout for it!
Seeing 20/20 with the Orbit Reader 20
The long-awaited Orbit Reader 20 has made it to the tables at CSUN. The American Printing House for the Blind, (APH), in collaboration with Orbit Research and the Transforming Braille Group have worked tirelessly to develop a 20-cell braille display costing under $500. This is huge, because the cost of braille hasn’t seen a price this low, since, well, ever! They are truly revolutionizing a blind person’s consumption of braille, and quite possibly, putting it in more people’s hands, than any company/agency ever has been able to before. this display has 20 cells, and a refresh rate that stays just ahead of the reader moving across the line. the cells begin to refresh at the left, and move across the display until the whole line is up. this happens very quickly, so the reader isn’t left waiting for the pins to refresh. The display has a plastic housing, but has a good weight to it. You don’t feel, when you pick it up, as if it’s too light, or too heavy. The keys are round-shaped, almost like big finger-tips. This makes it easy for someone’s fingers to rest on the keys and type notes. There is an SD card slot, giving the user the ability to move files to and from the display.
Only .brf files provide full contracted braille translation if just using the display for reading and writing. You can connect via Bluetooth and USB to external devices such as tablets and computers. Once you’ve connected the display in this way, then anything you read will be translated per your screen reader’s settings. The display has a navigational square between dots 1 and 4, allowing you to go left, right, up, or down.
The portability of this device is obvious as soon as its first handled. It can fit easily into a purse or backpack, allowing braille to be with you wherever you go. I was so excited to see this device in action, and to know that it will soon be available for everyone. Braille is literacy and so much more, and now blind people will be able to have much easier access to it, thanks to the Orbit Reader 20.
APH will be the seller in the U.S. and as always, feel free to check them out for any other details you wish to know.
“Look Ma…” One Hand!
We’ve all been there. Talking and walking, walking and talking … texting and walking. But … texting, brailling, with one hand? Thanks to TAP, this will soon be a reality. And not just brailling with one hand on a touch screen, but brailling with one hand … on any surface!
TAP is in the process of developing a wearable that connects to your phone via Bluetooth. It is a specialized keyboard with its own system for entering in letters/numbers/punctuation. For instance, tapping your first finger on a surface results in the letter “A”. Going through the rest of your fingers on one hand gives you the vowels. There is a TAP Genius app that allows you, once you connect the device, to learn its system of typing. The device goes over one hand, (left or right), up to the knuckles of your hand, so you have the full length of your fingers free to type … or, tap, as the case is.
You can learn more by tapping over to their site
If you like to live on the wild side, you can sign up to be an early adopter
This was the most inventive thing I’ve seen in the world of typing. If anyone signs up, I’d love to hear how you like it!
Acustica Will Make Sure You’re On Time
Acustica, based in Switzerland has developed a watch for everyone. This watch speaks or vibrates depending on how you set it. It has easy-to-feel buttons, and feels very well-made when you put it on. This watch is waterproof and comes with a docking station. If you prefer to set your alarms via a computer, rather than through the watch itself, there is a program called Acustica Manager which helps you accomplish this task.
The watch had a very clear voice, and very pronounced vibrations. When you think of chocolate or watches, you most likely think of the Swiss. They have put out a true work of craftsmanship with this timepiece.
Take some time, and see for yourself
Any tech geek will tell you, it’s an absolute ball at the CSUN Conference. You’re able to spend some time in beautiful San Diego, meet up with friends
who share the same passion for technology that you do, and see products that haven’t yet been released. It’s an opportunity to learn from others in the
field, or treat yourself and go to presentations on things that are of interest to you. Having had the opportunity to cruise around the exhibit hall and
see some of these technologies, I can’t help but feel very positive towards the future. Mainstream companies are taking notice and including accessibility
in their products, there are companies building and expanding upon already existing products and making them more accessible to those with disabilities.
It’s a great age we live in, and it seems to only be getting better as time goes by.