GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Microsoft Soundscape, September 19, 2019

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

September 19, 2019

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB Foundation

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, September 19 at the CNIB Community Hub.

 

*Note: Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.

 

Theme: Microsoft Soundscape

 

GTT Toronto Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Ian White (Facilatator, GTT)

 

Jason opened the meeting by welcoming the two guest speakers from Microsoft, who joined via Zoom. They talked about Microsoft Soundscape.

Amos Miller introduced himself. He started off in the UK, and introduced Melanie.

Melanie Maxwell said that they are both calling in from Redmond Washington, and are both part of the Soundscape team. Amos explained that the team is spread out over the U.S. and the UK.

Amos began by describing how Soundscape differs from other GPS aps. We wanted to explore how we could use technology to enrich peoples’ awareness of their surroundings. How could we have a greater understanding of what’s around us, and where it is in relation to where we are, to aid with orientation, way-finding, and our experience out doors. The way we achieve that is through the use of 3D audio, or spatial audio. This means,  sound that you can hear, that sounds like it’s in space around you, not between your ears. You can imagine that if you were standing on a street corner, and there was a Starbucks across the road and to the right in front of you, you would hear the word, “Starbucks,” coming from that direction. Instead of Soundscape telling you there’s a Starbucks 200 metres in front of you and to the right, it will just say the word, “Starbucks,” and you will hear that it’s 200 metres in front of you and to the right, just from the nature of the way you hear it through the headphones. For the best experience, it does require stereo headphones, and we can have a long conversation about that; that’s definitely unusual, especially for our community when you’re out doors, and trying to hear the ambient sounds as well. There are very good solutions for that, so there is a lot of reasons why Soundscape persisted to advance the thinking and the experience. When you walk down the street, you will hear those call-outs in 3D around you, giving you that P.O.I. information. We’ll also talk about how you can navigate to your destination using what Soundscape refers to as the audio beacon.

Before I dive into that though, I’ll give some background to the project. I’m the Product Manager for Soundscape in Microsoft Research in Redmond. This work started out 4 or 5 years ago when I was still in the UK. I was involved with the local guide dog organization there, and working with them to try and figure out how technology can integrate into our own independence and mobility when we’re out and about, but in a way that enhances that experience. Some people from Microsoft started working with mobility instructors, and guide dog and cane users. We explored a range of ideas long before we figured out how to solve the problem. We landed on this notion of how important it is to enhance the awareness, but not tell the person what to do in that space. A lot of what orientation and mobility trainers will do with us is to work on a specific route, but especially how to perceive the environment, how we read the cues that the environment is giving us from a sound perspective, echo location, traffic noise, direction of the wind, the tactile feeling of the ground: all of the signals we can get from the environment in order to orient, and make good navigational decisions. The work that we did with Guide Dogs in the early days of Soundscape was really to see how we can build on that. The idea of sound playing a big role in the perception of the space, was really how this idea evolved. Soundscape as an ap, is the first incarnation of that idea.

The ap is free, and available from the Ap Store. It does rely on map data, and so it does need to be able to access that data. For the most part, it will download the necessary data from the environment that you’re in, and from that point forward it’s not using data. So it’s not constantly drawing on your data plan, but it does require one. We’ve tried to optimize it so that the data usage is minimal, and in certain situations, it will also work in areas where there is no data.

Bose frames are a very good way to get the stereo effect. Bone conducting headphones are another good way. EarPods or standard headphones will work, but they will block your ears to ambient sound. Putting it in one ear to keep the other ear free won’t be effective because you won’t get the signature 3D effect. Amos said that he personally likes EarPods because of their sound quality, and it’s possible to insert them lightly into the ear and still have ambient sound. Some sports headphones are a good solution too, Plantronics for example. This type of headphone rests around the back of your neck, and clips over the ear. They sit in front of the ear canal without blocking it. They’re used commonly by runners and cyclists.

Melanie then took over. She began by running through some of the core features. The demo she provides will be limited because it can’t be presented in proper 3D audio.

“I’m going to walk us through the home screen first. Our goal with anything we design is that we want it to be really simple to use, and accessible. One thing you’ll notice is that we don’t have a lot on the home screen. I’m going to walk us through the home screen. The, set audio beacon, is one of the largest buttons on the screen. There are also buttons for, my location, nearby markers, around me, and, ahead of me. There are two parts of Soundscape; there are automatic components, where you can put your phone in your pocket and hear things, and there’s an active component, which are the buttons on the home screen. For example, if you want to know more about your current location, you can tap the, your location, button. Tapping on it gives you information about nearby intersections, what direction you’re facing, and then what intersection is closest to you. If you’re inside, you might here that you’re inside. The callout will change depending on where you are. When your phone is in your pocket and you’re moving, Soundscape relies on directionality of movement from the phone itself.

Another callout we have is, what’s around me. You’ll get location names and distances of places around where you are. You can change a setting between metric and imperial. You have choices for the Soundscape voice as well, including a French Canadian voice. Soundscape uses GPS, so it will only work inside buildings if map data is available. Either way, accuracy inside a building isn’t going to be as good. We have had users make audio beacons inside buildings. This can work reasonably well in a very large building, but we’re not at a place of very good accuracy in buildings.

There are two ways of finding a building. One way is to create your own marker. This relies on the accuracy of GPS. We recommend that if you want to create a marker, walk around the location a bit, as in, walk back and forth in front of it, to allow the phone to get as pinpointed a location as possible. This should get your marker accuracy to within a few metres. You won’t get 1 metre accuracy. Don’t try to create the marker when you exit a building, because the phone won’t be pinpointed enough yet with GPS.

There is a more complicated way as well. Soundscape uses Open Street Maps, which is an open-source ap that anyone can update. A lot of the buildings in Open Street Maps have their entrances marked. If Soundscape can find a building entrance on Open Street Maps, it will default to using that. Adding something to Open Street Maps isn’t an accessible process unfortunately, because it’s visual map-based. If there’s a building entrance that’s particularly important to you, you could try to have someone go into Open Street Maps and enter it for you, and it will show up in Soundscape. Open Street Maps update themselves once per week, but it might take two weeks for it to show up in Soundscape. Markers that you create yourself with Soundscape show up immediately.

To create a marker at your current location, from the home screen, find the, mark current location, button, located near the top of the screen. Double tap that. If you start in a tutorial screen, you can dismiss it. A name will be automatically assigned, but you can edit it. Pressing done, means the marker will exist as a custom P.O.I. There’s another whole page of controls where you can edit and manipulate your markers.

This moves us on to a unique feature of Soundscape, beacons. Beacons are one way of navigating to a specific place. Instead of giving you step by step instructions for you to follow in order to find your destination, Soundscape creates a sound that emanates from the destination you’ve set, and you navigate from that. This is done by using a marker, and turning it into a beacon, then activating it.

Start by double tapping on the button on the home screen called, set audio beacon. On the next page, you have a few options. You can set an audio beacon on a marker you’ve already created, or you can enter an address that you want to find. You can also browse nearby places and choose one to place a beacon on. You can also filter nearby places by category, restaurants etc.

 

To set a beacon on an existing marker, from this page, double tap on the, browse your markers, button. Here, you can browse your existing markers. Double tapping on a marker will set it as a beacon.”

Jason added that he and Chris Chamberlin are producing a tech podcast, and one of their recent episodes was on Soundscape. In it, they do a stereo demonstration of setting and following a beacon. Listening to this episode with headphones will give a very accurate experience of using Soundscape.

Amos then opened it up for questions. One member reported that some of the stores Soundscape announced for her in real time, were closed. The response was that the ap is getting its data from Open Street Map, so if their data isn’t up-to-date, Soundscape won’t be getting accurate information. Amos made the point that there will always be a question mark between you and the technology. “In Soundscape, we try to stay on the right side of not pretending that we can do more than what we think we can. We’ll never give you an impression of greater accuracy than what we can actually give you with the technology. A great example of that is, if you’re navigating to somewhere and you get close, Soundscape will tell you you’re close, then turn off the beacon, leaving the specific locating of an entrance to you. There will always be cases where there’s a dissonance between the technology and your experience. We give you all the information we can, but you’ll always have to make sense of it based on your own senses. We had an early incarnation of the ap that tried to follow a road. Sometimes the data would be wrong, but testers would follow the beacon out into the middle of an intersection, even though all of their awareness of their surroundings tells them it’s not a good idea. All GPS aps will tell you to use your best judgment, and then they’ll give you instructions that are pretty difficult to ignore. We’ve always been very careful in the design of Soundscape, not to give the impression that it knows better than you about the space you’re in.”

A member asked whether they are considering adding functionality that would allow Soundscape users to update information in Open Street Map, using a Soundscape interface.

Melanie replied, “That isn’t something that’s on our immediate road map, but it is something we’ve discussed. There is a, send feedback, button in Soundscape where we welcome information. We can’t necessarily respond to every report by updating Open Street Maps, but we definitely do add our own updates routinely, so it’s worth reporting this way if you want to. Open Street Map is open source with a strong community, and we’ve found that if we flag a particular area as being poorly represented, the community will often step up to fill in the gaps. It may be useful for the visually impaired community in Toronto, to make contact with the Open Street Map community in Toronto to see if the two groups could work together.

Another member said that she finds it hard to operate the phone and work her dog. Is there another way to interface with the ap?

Amos responded that most of the information you need will be announced even with your phone locked and in your pocket. If you have the kind of headphones that have play/pause and fast-forward/rewind buttons on them, the play and pause button has a few functions. One press will mute or unmute Soundscape. A double press of that button will activate the, where am I, feature, and a triple press will repeat the last call-out. Bose Frames, Aftershocks and EarPods all have this functionality, and have good sound. We have worked hard for as much of a hands/free experience as possible. It’s a background or ambient experience for some users. Some people keep it on in the background while riding the bus and checking email. It’s a companion that you should be able to get used to without having to give it a lot of attention. Work on ignoring Soundscape

Soundscape does not work on Android phones. Jason and another member contributed that functionality on Android is important, because accessibility should mean being available on as many devices as possible. A member contributed that AMI research has shown that Android use among young people in the visually impaired community is higher, and rising. In general, iPhone use outstrips Android use in the visually impaired community in North America, but that’s definitely not true in other parts of the world.

Another member asked if there’s any consideration of using voice commands to run Soundscape. Amos replied that there are. IOS provides some even easier ways to do that now, with Siri shortcuts and so on. There are two reasons why we haven’t really got there. The first is that when you’re out doors in noisy environments, that’s not going to work so well, especially if your microphone isn’t quite where it needs to be, which can lead to frustration. Secondly, the direction of trying to minimize your need to even give Soundscape commands, is the goal as we try to optimize. There are certain situations, such as choosing a beacon, which is a handful when you’re on the go, and voice commands could simplify that. We look a lot at the telemetry of which buttons are being pressed and so on. When people are on the go largely, you don’t really need most of them. You don’t really need to pull the phone out and press buttons, especially with the headset buttons, but we do look at voice commands. It’s always good to hear people’s experiences and preferences in that regard.

A member asked if the ap will work with IOS13? Amos replied that it will, but be warned … There are a lot of warnings out there about IOS13 having a lot of its own accessibility issues. The recommendation is to wait a few days till IOS13.1 comes out.

A member said that she uses Bluetooth hearing aids, and that she was very impressed with how well Soundscape functioned with them.

Amos said, “We are both delighted to hear, we’re both smiling here.”

A member said he wasn’t clear how close or far you could be to a destination to use Soundscape, as it doesn’t give turn-by-turn directions. Should we be using it in conjunction with another ap?

Melanie replied that they have received similar feedback in the past. The current recommendation is that Soundscape can be used alongside other navigation tools. If you’re in a location that you’re not familiar with and you want a lot of detail about how to get there, Google Maps might provide really great turn-by-turn directions. You might then also use Soundscape to help you understand what’s around you as you move from point A to point B. When you’re in a space you feel more familiar with, you might know the general layout but you don’t know exactly where the building is. In that case you might set a beacon on the building and start making the necessary turns.

Amos added that you can do long walks with Soundscape, but that it’s really optimal around 400 to 150 metres. It’s often very good when you go somewhere using Google Maps and it tells you you’ve arrived, but you still don’t know where the building is. In that case, Soundscape can be very helpful. We do get the question of adding turn-by-turn directions to Soundscape, and we’re not ignoring that.

For the past year, we started to explore uses of Soundscape outside the area of city navigation and mobility. We started to explore, for example, the idea of using Soundscape for kayaking. You can use a beacon to keep oriented on a lake; you can hear where the shore is, or where you took off from. We’ve played around with trails and recreational experiences. We’re having a lot of interest and traction on that front. Personally, I think that the experiences people get in recreation are mind blowing. They’re just wonderful because of the level of independence it gives you. So if any of you are so inclined, I highly recommend for you to try it. We are doing some work with the local adaptive sports organization. We’ve set up a trial that enables them to curate a route which would then surface on Soundscape. They’re going to run their first adaptive sports kayaking program next week with Soundscape as a test. It’s something that’s different, and that we felt was very rewarding for participants.

A member contributed that the active tandem cycling and sailing groups in Toronto might want to connect with Amos.

A member asked what Microsoft is working on for the future of Soundscape.

Amos replied that the recreational aspect is something they’re really excited about, and also the Bose Frames. We have talked about a hands-free experience, and sensors built into the device that track your head movement, enabling us to improve the audio experience. Amos invited Jason, who has had the opportunity to try this type of Bose Frames, to describe the experience.

Jason explained that the newest Bose Frames will have a gyro/accelerometer in them. What it will allow you to do, is set a beacon in Soundscape, then locate it just by turning your head, and it’s really quite cool.

Amos added that it has some very interesting applications for what Soundscape can offer.

Jason asked how people can give feedback.

Amos answered that they can email soundscapefeed@microsoft.com and that comes to our team. There is also a feedback button in the ap itself.

Amos and Melanie signed off.

Jason then went through a few points.

All of the meeting notes are now up on the GTT website. He then demonstrated something that has been added to the website. Do not try this with Internet Explorer, you must use a modern browser. One of the links at the top of the page is for meeting notes. Jason opened the notes for May, 2019. Arrowing down from the main heading, you’ll come to a line that says, listen to this article, with a play button. This is a new feature, that will read you the article in the new Amazon Newscaster voice. If you would prefer a voice other than Jaws, or if you’re a large print user, this is an option. Jason did a demo of the high-quality voice. Any of the meeting notes you call up, will offer this option.

IOS13 was released today. If you have an iPhone6S or better, you  can run it. It’s probably a good idea to hold off on installing it. IOS13.1 should be out in 4 days or so. They released IOS13 a bit before it was ready, in order to align with the new iPhone release. IOS13 offers a lot of cool things. One of the coolest is that you can change all of your VoiceOver gestures. An example of why you might want to do this is, there are people who have a really hard time with the rotor gesture. You could change that to a different gesture. Also, if you have anything newer than an iPhone 8, you can turn the VoiceOver sounds into vibrations. There are several vibration patterns to choose from. We’re hoping to have a presentation on IOS13 next month.

Jason also announced a new tech podcast that he and Chris Chamberlin are doing. It’s through the CNIB Podcast Network, and it’s called the CNIB Smartlife Tech cast. It’s on most popular podcast platforms.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 6pm
  • Location: CNIB Community Hub space at 1525 Yonge Street, just 1 block north of St Clair on the east side of Yonge, just south of Heath.
  • Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 6pm.

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group Overview:

  • GTT Toronto is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Toronto promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

http://www.GTTProgram.Blog/

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.

 

 

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, CSUN Assistive Tech Conference Summary, March 21, 2019

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

March 21, 2019

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB Foundation

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, March 21 at the CNIB Community Hub.

 

*Note: Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.

 

Theme: 2019 CSUN Assistive Tech Conference Summary

 

GTT Toronto Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Ian White (Facilatator, GTT)

Jason Fayre (Presenter)

 

Jason opened the meeting. He invited questions and input.

 

General Discussion:

A member raised the topic that AIRA is offering 3 months of free service. You’re eligible if you’ve never paid for AIRA before. The deal is on till March 29. You pay your first month at $29 U.S. and your next 3 months are free, 30 minutes per month. You don’t get glasses; you just use your phone. Another member described a device he had with him. Samsung has an in-house accessibility program. They offer a free, downloadable program that works with virtual reality glasses. The member passed the device around. It’s something wearable on your face, that holds your phone, and augments what the camera sees, in various ways. It’s a device for people with low vision. It’s a competitor to Iris Vision and New Eyes. It’s mainly for magnification and enhancement.

Another member raised a problem watching Netflix on his phone, and the controls get minimized Another member said she called Netflix, and they say it’s an iPhone issue. She recommends when the “show controls” button comes up, tap and hold. Netflix has an accessibility team; Twitter might be one way to find them. The first member said he now uses his Apple watch to control it. Someone else recommended that if you want to track down an accessibility person at a particular company, try finding them on LinkedIn.

Someone raised the question of what’s going on with CELA. When will their website be fixed. A member said that downloading and direct-to-player should now be working. They completely redesigned their site, and almost everything about how they operate. Things didn’t go as smoothly as they’d hope. Now, you can access CELA and Bookshare through the same site. It will really facilitate getting more titles from the U.S. soon.

Albert from GTT on the west coast contributed that someone from CELA will be on the national GTT call on May 8 to talk about the changes. The main site to find out about national GTT stuff is www.gttprogram.blog. Many things are posted there. The national calls are always on the second Wednesday of each month, 7:00 P.M. eastern.

A member raised a problem in Jaws 2018 and Windows10, where demands by the computer to install upgrades, were causing Jaws to crash in Outlook. He said the Microsoft accessibility help desk was able to downgrade him to a previous version of something, which helped. Jason added that using Windows10 pretty much requires you to keep your Jaws completely updated. The Office version number is also relevant to the equation. NVDA is getting very good, so if anyone’s frustrated, it’s always an option.

A member raised a problem with Windows8 where turning on the computer seems to load many windows, which he has to close before he can continue. Jason recommended the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk. You can also use Be My Eyes, and call Microsoft through that. This allows you to point your camera at the screen for easier diagnostics.

A member asked about files that say, “empty document,” when you open them. Another member said this is likely because the document is a scanned image, or if the protection on the document is too high. Another member added that, in Adobe, there’s a setting under “reading” that will help to read the entire document verses reading only one page at a time. Try going under the view menu, then accessibility, for more options. PDFs are always challenging. One might work, one might not. Another member added that Jaws now has built in character recognition for PDF documents. Within Jaws 2019, press insert, space bar, O, then D, it will allow you to read some PDF’s. Also, you can do this by navigating to the file name without opening it, open your applications menu, and arrow down to, recognize with Jaws OCR.

Another member raised the question of how to use Outlook to make appointments consulting other peoples’ calendars. Jason replied that it’s possible but not simple, maybe too in-depth for the meeting. Jason volunteered that he has a document he wrote in another context, which explains how to do it. He offered to send it out to the group.

A member asked about how to fax from a printer. Jason answered that you’d have to call the printer company and ask if there’s a way to do it directly from the computer.

A member asked if it’s possible to combine all your calendars into one. Jason answered that if you attach all your calendars to your phone calendar, your phone will show everything. Everything will show in a unified list in the phone calendar ap.

 

CSUN Summary:

Jason then began talking about his experience at CSUN. This is an enormous assistive technology conference that occurs in California each year. It’s put on by the University of Southern California North Ridge. It’s the largest conference of its kind anywhere. It includes any kind of assistive tech, not just blindness-related stuff. Microsoft and Google have a large presence there. Apple attends too, but keeps a low profile.

There’s a large exhibit hall where companies set up tables to display the latest things. The other part of the conference is presentations on specific topics. Apple did have a table this year, but they didn’t present.

This year there wasn’t one defining great thing, or extraordinary trend. There were, however, some interesting new things.

Hymns released a new Q-Braille XL, which is a note taker and display that you can hook up to your phone or PC.

Another interesting element related to the hotel which hosted the conference. This was a new venue for the event. AIRA had set up a free access point for the hotel, so that if you had an AIRA account, you could use it there and not have to pay for your minutes.

The hotel had what you might call a “smart elevator.” This works by having a key pad on the wall at each elevator bank outside the elevator. You type in the floor you want into the keypad, then you’re directed to a specific elevator car. This is a system designed to streamline elevator use in very busy buildings, and it had a feature that allowed you to turn on speech. Jason then played a brief audio recording demonstrating use of the elevator.

It really is obvious when you spend any time in the U.S., how effective the ADA legislation has been in making things more accessible. Jason described getting into a cab for a very long cab ride. Facing him in the back seat, was a little display showing you dynamic details of your trip. When the trip started, a voice says, “to turn on voice accessibility, press the button in the corner.” Then, you’d get a verbal update of your fair and location. This proves that the technology exists.

Another highlight is always the networking. Jason got to meet with representatives from Microsoft and Google.

One exciting piece of tech that was being displayed was a set of Bows glasses called the Bows Frames. Both AIRA and Microsoft are planning to incorporate them into GPS aps. There are highly directional speakers in the arms of the glasses, that sit right behind your ears. Bone conducting headphones can slightly block your hearing and echo location, and this effect is lessened when the sound is coming from behind your ears. Jason connected them via Bluetooth to his phone, then sent them around the room. The sound is directed toward your ears, and he demonstrated how local the sound is, so that someone sitting next to you doesn’t hear a lot of sound bleeding out. Flipping them upside-down turns them off. The true innovation is that they have an inertial measurement unit in them. This means they can track your head movement for GPS and navigational purposes. They go for $200. Like bone-conducting headphones, this is mainstream technology. The Bows store near the hotel hosting the conference was swamped with people wanting them. The sound quality for someone on the other end of the call through the glasses is quite good.

Unless you’re moving, GPS can’t tell which way you’re facing. AIRA plans to integrate with these because the accelerometer lets them know that immediately.

A member raised the topic of looking a bit strange walking down the street apparently talking to yourself, using the glasses. Jason said that it’s getting less and less unusual as more sighted people start using Bluetooth devices. He described the experience of talking to his headset, and being misunderstood by people around him, and having them offer help. He was told that it’s a universal gesture to tap your ear, as a non-verbal sign to others that your engaged in a different conversation.

Albert reported that most announcements at CSUN were tweaks of things we already know about. One of the exceptions this year, a new exciting device, is the Canute, out of Britain. It’s a 9-line, 40-cell braille display. It’s portable but beefy. It shines for anything you’d want to see multiple lines of braille for, such as music or math. They’re hoping to launch by the end of this year, and CNIB is very interested in working with them. The target price is around 1500 pounds, maybe $2600 Canadian. Jason had a prototype with him, and demonstrated it. There’s storage, and you could store many books. The refresh rate is line by line, so you could time it to be at the bottom line by the time the top line is replaced. Braille readers at the conference were very excited about it. They described it as going back to paper braille. This is not a replacement for a note taker, it’s firmly a braille reader. It’s a stand-alone device. They hope to integrate it with Duxbury. This would allow paperless proof reading.

There’s another device in development that is a tactile graphics display, called Graffiti. It will be appropriate for diagrams rather than braille.

Jason described several workshops on the blind Maker movement that interested him.

He spent a lot of time at the conference asking, “When will we get this in Canada?” Amazon and Google both released new things, but not in Canada yet. If there are things you know about that aren’t available in Canada, express to companies that you want them; it might help.

Amazon Prime has all kinds of audio described content, that we can’t get at. Representatives talk a good talk, but are unwilling to commit themselves about times or reasons.

One new thing is a DAISY player from a company out of China. Unfortunately, their representative didn’t speak very good English. Jason got a contact for the U.S. that he’ll follow up on.

Albert, who was at CSUN for the first time, was impressed that it wasn’t just a group of assistive tech companies. All of the big players in technology were there. This wouldn’t have been true 10 years ago. The reason is that mainstream companies are increasingly taking accessibility more seriously over all.

Jason also discussed a company called Native Instruments, that’s very well known in the field of digital music. They’ve recently built accessibility in. One of their music keyboards that you can connect to a PC, has an accessibility mode. When you turn it on, all of its features talk, and so you have easy access to all the functions.

It’s a good idea to get yourself on to the GTT national email list. It’s high traffic, but it’s very diverse and helpful. Google GTT support to find out how to get on it. You can put it in digest mode. There’s also a GTT WhatsAp group.

A member raised a question about Google Docs. A few people said that they’ve used it, and it’s doable, with a stiff learning curve.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, April 18, 2019 at 6pm
  • Location: CNIB Community Hub space at 1525 Yonge Street, just 1 block north of St Clair on the east side of Yonge, just south of Heath.
  • Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 6pm.

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group Overview:

  • GTT Toronto is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Toronto promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

http://www.GTTProgram.Blog/

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.

 

 

 

GTT Toronto: Thanks to all for Toronto’s 4th White Cane Week ‘Experience’ Expo, held on February 2, 2019

Hey GTT Toronto!

—-Message from Ian White, President, CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter, Canadian Council of the Blind—-

Once again, thank you for making our 4th year hosting the WCW ‘Experience’ Expo our best year yet. Following on from the discussion at the Assistive Technology Forum, we have one more very important thing to do.

 

As you know, the employment rate of Canadians who are blind, partially-sighted, and deaf-blind is very low, and the cost of assistive and accessible technology is very high. Given these facts, the CCB is endeavouring to better understand your thoughts, experiences, and goals in these matters so that we may advocate for you more effectively. We want to work with you towards a future with a higher employment rate for those with vision loss as well as increased accessibility and independence.

 

Our goal is to eliminate or minimize the barriers limiting those with vision loss from acquiring the education of their choice and from entering and thriving in today’s workforce. So help us help you and complete the brief survey below!

 

Tell us about your circumstances. Where you are and where do you want to go? We want to help you get there.

 

Click here to complete the survey!

 

Please invest the 8 to 10 minutes it will take to complete the above survey. If you can, do it today  or if not, then no later than Friday March 15, 2019.

Once you’ve submitted your survey, please pass the survey link along to as many others living with vision loss as possible. The more survey respondents we get, the better we’ll be able to understand the present status of Canadians with vision loss and to act accordingly.

Thank you in advance for your participation.

All the best,

 

Ian White

President

CCB’s Toronto Visionaries Chapter

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Seeing AI, TapTapSee, Be My Eyes and Aira, January 17, 2019

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

January 17, 2019

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB Foundation

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, January 17 at the CNIB Community Hub.

 

*Note: Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.

 

Theme: Seeing AI, TapTapSee, BeMyEyes and Aira

 

GTT Toronto Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Ian White (Facilatator, GTT)

Chelsy Moller Presenter, Balance For Blind Adults

 

Ian opened the meeting. Chelsy Moller will be presenting on recognition aps.

 

General Discussion:

  • We began with a general discussion. OrCam will be presenting at the White Cane Expo. AIRA will not. We’re still in negotiation to see if they will open up the event as a free AIRA event space. Apple will also not be there. They make it a corporate policy not to present at generalized disability events.
  • Ian raised the issue of getting a media error 7 when he’s recording on his Victor Stream. Is there a list of errors somewhere? Jason answered that perhaps it’s a corrupted SD card. A member said that there’s a list of errors in an appendix to the manual, which can be accessed by holding down the 1 key.
  • Michael asked if there’s a way to add personal notes in BlindSquare, such as, 25 steps. One recommendation was a document that you could access through the cloud. Another recommendation was to mark a “point of interest” in BlindSquare. When you do this, you can name it, so you could call it, Shoppers 25, to indicate 25 steps. Another recommendation was to make notes using the iPhone notes ap. Another recommendation was to set up geo-dependent iPhone reminders. Within a radius of the spot you want, your phone would just tell you whatever information you put in.
  • A member raised the problem of using Windows 10 and Jaws, trying to synchronize contacts email with Apple, and having duplicate folders in his Outlook email. Microsoft exchange might help.
  • Jason told the group that he has an Instant Pot smart available for sale. This is a pressure cooker that works with the iPhone, and it’s no longer available as an iPhone connectable device. He’s thinking $100, talk to him privately if interested.
  • Then he described a new keyboard he got. It’s a Bluetooth called REVO2, which he received as a demo unit. It’s got 24 keys. You can type on your phone with it, or control your phone with it. Its most useful use is when you need to key in numbers after having made a call, such as keying in bank passwords etc. Alphabetic entry works the way old cell phones did, press 2 twice for B. It has actual physical buttons. It can control every aspect of VoiceOver. You can also route your phone audio to it, so you’re essentially using it as a phone. It’s about $300. It can be paired to iPhone and Android. Here’s a link to the David Woodbridge podcast demonstrating the Rivo Keyboard:
  • A member asked if Phone it Forward is up and running. This is a program in which CNIB takes old phones, refurbishes them, then redistributes them to CNIB clients. Phone It Forward information can be found at this link.

 

Seeing AI, TapTapSee, Be My Eyes, and AIRA Presentation:

Ian introduced Chelsie, who is an Adaptive Technology Trainer, and Engagement Specialist. She’s here tonight to talk about recognition aps.

We’re going to focus on 4 aps, Seeing AI, TapTapSee, Be My Eyes, and AIRA.

  • Seeing AI is an ap that allows the user to do a variety of visual tasks, scene description, text recognition, vague descriptions of people, light levels, currency recognition, and colour preview. Each of these functions is called a channel. As a side note, Chelsie said that her iPhone10 uses facial recognition as your password. A store employee told her it wouldn’t work because it needs to see your retina, but this isn’t true; it works from facial contours.

Chelsie opened the ap. There’s a menu, quick help, then channel chooser. To get from channel to channel, flick up. She did a demonstration of short text with a book. It’s helpful for reading labels and packaging. Try to keep the camera about a foot above the text, and centred. This requires some trial and error. The document channel takes a picture of the text. It’s better for scanning a larger surface. Short text is also very useful for your computer screen if your voice software is unresponsive. Short text will not recognize columns, but document mode usually will. The product channel is for recognizing bar codes. This is a bit challenging because you have to find the bar code first. Jason said that it’s possible to learn where the codes typically appear, near the label seem on a can, or on the bottom edge of a cereal box. The person channel tells you when the face is in focus, then you take a picture. You get a response that gives age, gender, physical features, and expression. Chelsie demonstrated these, as well as currency identifier. It’s very quick. The scene preview also takes a picture, and gives you a very general description. The colour identification channel is also very quick. There’s also a hand writing channel, that has mixed results. The light detector uses a series of ascending and descending tones. Beside the obvious use of detecting your house lights, it’s also useful in diagnosing electronics. If you turn all other lights off, you can use it to see if an indicator light on a device is on.

Seeing AI is free. It’s made by Microsoft, who has many other ways of generating revenue.

  • TapTapSee is a very good ap for colour identification. This is always a tricky thing, because colour is often subjective, and is affected by light levels. TapTapSee takes a picture, and gives a general description including colour. For more accurate colour description, Be My Eyes and AIRA are better. TapTapSee is free.
  • Be My Eyes is a service in which a blind person contacts volunteers who help with quick identification or short tasks. Because they’re volunteers, the quality of help varies. You may have to wait for a volunteer. There’s a specialized help button. You can use Be My Eyes to call the disability help desk. This is useful if you need technical help from Microsoft, and they need to see your screen. This ap is also free.
  • AIRA is a paid service. Chelsie has been using it for a month. She’s very happy with it. It connects a blind user with a trained, sighted agent. This could be anything from “what is this product?” “I need to find this address,” I need to navigate through a hospital or airport. When you set up your profile, you can specify how much information you want in a given situation, and how you like to receive directions. They can access your location via GPS, in order to help navigate. They will not say things like “it’s safe to cross,” but they will say things like, “You have a walk signal with 10 seconds to go.” They’re seeing through either your phone camera, or through a camera mounted on glasses you can ware.

They have 3 plans, introductory, 30 minutes. You cannot buy more minutes in a month on this plan. You can upgrade though. The standard plan is 120 minutes at $100, or the $125 plan, that gives you 100 minutes plus the glasses. The advantage of this is that you can be hands-free when travelling. The glasses have a cord connecting them to an Android phone that has been dedicated to the AIRA function. Otherwise, you simply use your own phone with its built-in camera. This happens via an ap that you install.

The question was raised about whether the glasses could be Bluetooth, but the feedback was that there’s too much data being transmitted for Bluetooth to work.

On the personal phone ap, you open the ap and tap on the “call” button. With the glasses, there’s a dedicated button to press to initiate the call.

Chelsie spoke about how powerfully liberating it is to have this kind of independence and information. You can, read her blog post about her experience here

The third plan is 300 minutes and $190. All these prices are U.S.

Jason added that, in the U.S. many stores are becoming Sight Access Locations. This means that if you already have an AIRA subscription, use at these locations won’t count against your minutes. The stores pay AIRA for this. This will likely begin to roll out in Canada. Many airports are also Sight Access Locations. You can’t get assigned agents, but you may get the same agent more than once. If you lose your connection, the agent will be on hold for about 90 seconds so that you can get the same agent again if you call back immediately. For head phones, you can use ear buds or Aftershocks.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, February 21 at 6pm
  • Location: CNIB Community Hub space at 1525 Yonge Street, just 1 block north of St Clair on the east side of Yonge, just south of Heath.
  • Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 6pm.

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group Overview:

  • GTT Toronto is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Toronto promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

http://www.GTTProgram.Blog/

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.

 

 

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, NVDA Session One, November 15, 2018

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

November 15, 2018

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, November 15 at the CNIB Community Hub.

 

*Note: Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.

 

November Topic: NVDA Session One

 

GTT Toronto Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Ian White (Facilatator, GTT)

Jason Fayre (Presenter, CNIB)

Chris Malec (Note taker)

 

Ian opened the meeting:

The meeting began with a roundtable discussion. A member is getting a new computer soon, and asked about what software is compatible with what. Jason answered that Jaws 2018 and Office 365 work well together, as do Office and NVDA. For browsers, Microsoft Edge isn’t quite there yet in terms of accessibility. Chrome is quite reliable, and Internet Explorer is increasingly not useful. It’s not being updated, so it can’t support new web technologies. It’s really important, if you can, to keep your screen reader up-to-date, because browsers and websites are constantly being updated. Office 365 updates monthly for example. The latest version of Jaws is 2019, which came out two weeks ago. Jaws has always done the typical upgrade system, where you can purchase a maintenance agreement that gives you the next two upgrades. In the U.S. they’re going to an annual subscription fee around $60, which gives you regular upgrades. This plan isn’t in Canada yet.

Jason then demonstrated the small speaker he will be using for his presentation. It’s called an Anker SoundCore Mini. It’s about the size of a tennis ball, and they’re quite cheap, $30 on Amazon. Anker makes iPhone chargers and speakers. It’s Bluetooth enabled, has an audio jack, an FM radio built in, and a micro SD slot. It has a really good battery life too.

Jason also demonstrated a new type of Bluetooth keyboard available for the iPhone, called a Tap keyboard. You wear it on your hand. It looks like five rings connected by a cable, and goes on your thumb and each finger. You type by using defined gestures, tapping on a hard surface. For example, each finger is a vowel, and other letters are made by various finger combinations. It’s possible to get quite fast with it. It’s fully accessible. It’s useful for typing on the go. It’s about $200 off Amazon. The company is called Tap Systems. There were some blind people involved in designing it. It allows you to type with one hand. It has a VoiceOver mode, so that you can control your phone with it. It’s gotten a lot of mainstream press related to virtual reality systems. A member asked about the best browser to use with Jaws. Jason said Chrome is the safest, but that FireFox works well too. There was an issue with FireFox for a couple of weeks, but it’s resolved now. Compatibility can be a problem; FireFox won’t work with Jaws16 for example.

 

 

Primary Presentation, NVDA:

Ian introduced the topic. NVDA is an acronym for Non-Visual Desktop Access. According to their website, it was the idea of a couple of Australian developers who have vision loss. They wanted to design a free screen reader as a social justice cause; many people in the developing world need screen readers, but can’t afford what was available. Whole sectors of the populations were cut off from computer technology. They decided to build an open-source screen reader, so that anyone who wants to, can add content. It’s available as a free download. They now occupy about 31% of the screen reader market globally.. Jaws has about 48%. This trend has been steady. It’s been translated into 43 languages, and is being used in 128 countries world wide, by millions of users. They do ask for donations if you’re able, because that helps keep it going. The updates come automatically, and are free as well.

Jason discussed making the topic of NVDA a multi-evening topic, in order to focus on different aspects of using it.

You can find NVDA at NVAccess.com or dot org. From the site, there’s a download link. When you do this, the first screen asks for donations, either one-time, or on-going. The default is a one-time $30 donation, so you need to find the button on the page that says “I don’t want to donate at this time.” You have to have Windows7 or better to run it. NVDA is labelled by year, then by version, so that NVDA 2018.3 is the third release for this year. There are usually four releases per year.

Jason then demonstrated the installation process. In response to a member question, Jason said that you can also download it to something like a Microsoft Surface. It does have limited touch control. It works on Windows only, not Apple or Linyx. The installation process is a series of simple steps, and then a very short installation time compared to Jaws. Jaws typically takes 5-10 minutes, and NVDA took less than a minute. Once you start the installer, NVDA will talk to you in its own voice during the install.

A dialogue comes up inviting you to configure. You’ll be asked which keyboard layout you want to use: laptop or desktop. The desktop layout uses a numeric keypad for many functions. Laptop mode uses other key combinations, assuming you don’t have a numeric keypad. If you’re installing it as your primary screen reader, check the box that says to load automatically when starting your system.

You are then asked about whether you will allow data collection about your use of NVDA, for development purposes.

The voice that came up in Jason’s demo was the default Microsoft voice. This is new. E-Speak, the voice that used to come up had a well-earned reputation for being intolerable. Though unpleasant to some, E-Speak has lightning-fast response times and speech rate compared to the Microsoft voice.

There are other options for voices. You can buy add-ons for around $100, that will allow you to use Eloquence or Vocalizer voices, some of the voices you might be used to from Jaws or on your iPhone. You could have Apple Samantha as your default NVDA voice. Even within Microsoft there are a few passable voice options.

Many navigation functions will remain the same, because they’re Windows hotkeys with no relationship to the screen reader. You can adjust the speech rate from within NVDA preferences, or there’s a shortcut keystroke.

There’s a quick-help mode that you can activate with insert1. The help mode is a toggle, and it’s the same keystroke as Jaws. NVDA has tried to reproduce as many of the same keystrokes as they could.

If you go to the NVDA menu under help, there’s a quick reference section. This brings up a webpage with all NVDA commands. All of the commands are reassignable. There’s also a “what’s new” section, and a user guide.

NVDA works with a good range of braille displays.

It will work with all the major applications that you’re likely to use. In terms of browsers, you’re still better off with Chrome or FireFox.

 

There are built-in sound effects to indicate actions like pop-up windows. The level of announcements you get is configurable. Navigation commands within documents are the same as Jaws. Just as with Jaws, insert F gives information about the font.

Because NVDA is a free product, it doesn’t have free tech support. You can, however, purchase hourly tech support, in blocks of hours, at around $13, and the block will last a year. There’s also a very high-traffic mailing list to ask questions of other users. There’s also a training guide which you can purchase. It’s more structured, and has a series of tutorials. It’s $30 Australian, and is  quite good. There are three different courses, basic, Excel, and Word. Each are $30, and worth it. You can get them in audio for a bit more money, or as braille, which is also more expensive.

Ian contributed that you can ask an NVDA question in a Google search, and will most likely find an answer.

Excel, Word, Outlook, Thunderbird, and the major browsers work well. Occasionally you’ll find an application where NVDA works better than Jaws, perhaps because the developers wanted to use it.

Because of licensing, you can’t use your Jaws Eloquence voice in NVDA. To compare, the NVDA installer is 21 meg, and the Jaws installer is well over 100. NVDA also works faster. There’s an NVDA pronunciation dictionary.

As Jaws does, opening Google lands you in the search field. NVDA has the same concept of forms mode. The home and arrow keys work the same as Jaws when navigating webpages. There’s a current Chrome bug in which entering text into the search field causes the phrase to be spoken repeatedly as you enter each keystroke.

You can use H and numbers one, two and three to move through headings. Insert F7 brings up an elements list. It defaults to a links list, but if you hit shift tab, you have the choice to switch between which elements you want a list of, headings, buttons, landmarks etc. You can use insert Q to quickly turn off NVDA, and control alt N, to start it. Entering and exiting will give you a four-note tone to let you know it’s doing it.

Add-ons for NVDA are what Jaws calls Jaws scripts. These are little bits of code that people have designed to do specific tasks, remoting into a machine for example.

A member asked if it can be used on a Chrome book. Jason answered no, because Chrome books run Chrome OS, which is a totally different operating system.

NVDA does have a built-in OCR function.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, December 20 at 6pm
  • Location: CNIB Community Hub space at 1525 Yonge Street, just 1 block north of St Clair on the east side of Yonge, just south of Heath.
  • Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 6pm.

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group Overview:

  • GTT Toronto is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Toronto promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

http://www.GTTProgram.Blog/

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.

 

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Rogers Ignite, Smart TVs and the BrailleMe, October 18, 2018

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

September 20, 2018

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, October 18 at the CNIB Community Hub.

 

*Note: Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.

 

October 2018 Topic: Rogers Ignite TV, Smart TVs and the BrailleMe

 

GTT Toronto October 18, 2018 Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Attendees (30)

Ian White (Facilatator, GTT)

David Isaacson(Presenter, Rogers)

Debbie Gillespie (Presenter, CNIB foundation)

Aamer Khan (Note taker)

 

Ian- opening Remarks & Open Questions

 

How to Access Help Menus?

For a lot of products (especially Humanware) products holding down the number “1” key can access the Help menu.

 

What kind of computer should I buy?

Suggestion were made to

  • member said the Intel NUC Series processors (computer chip) are good
  • Lenovo T series may be a good choice as known for its toughness
  • Look for solid state hard drive as it is significantly faster
  • Gaming laptop is likely overkill if not using for gaming

 

What’s up with JAWS and Chrome?

Member informed that there is a bug with JAWS 2018 and Chrom 70- keystroke of “alt+down arrow” must be used to open combo boxes

 

What kind of Tech is Out There to help with Hearing Loss?

  • Tom Decker described he uses CommPilot hearing aids which also come with a auxiliary cable which can be plugged into almost anything.
  • Audio conn are $2200 each for each ear
  • Bose is coming to the market with “hearphones” hearing aids with significantly cheaper product $500 USD

 

What kind of discounts are there for Cell Phones?

Most of the cell phone carriers have discounts for people with disabilities including the below mentioned by members:

  • Rogers Wireless and Telus have a $20/month discount for people with disabilities
  • Virgin Mobile and Bell offer 2 extra gigs of data to people with disabilities

BrailleME Presentation

Presented by Tom Decker

  • BrailleMe is a low cost Braille display that works on iPhone and android via Bluetooth as well as the PC via USB.
  • preconfigured for NVDA, Spanish, English, French and several other languages
  • Frontier Computing will be the Canadian distributor, however currently only available in the United States.
  • Questions about servicing (no info at this time)
  • Does not use pizo electric cells, runs on magnet
  • $700+ CDN for the unit
  • Durable, makes noise
  • Six cell Braille, cursor routing keys
  • Members are claiming Orbit Braille reader has a high failure rate

 

 

Smart TV Demonstration

Presented by Debbie Gillespie

 

  • Debbie describes the remote in detail specifically the Description of accessible button on remote
  • TV being demonstrated is a Samsung NU8000
  • Debbie will be playing Three sound Recordings
  • Sound clip-1: asking like SIRI
  • Can you change the speech rate-Yes
  • Be careful of claims of “accessible” or “Smart TV’s” some will offer large print, screen readers or just WIFI
  • Low fidelity user guide, cannot re read paragraphs, you can pause and start but can’t re read
  • It is not on by default, you can turn it on by pushing down on the button
  • Cannot change voice type
  • Cable box overrides, tv controls for audio description

 

Rogers On demand- TV won’t read it

It will read AppleTV, Netflix, Chromecast, DVD player

 

 

 

Rogers Ignite Presentation

Presented by David from Rogers

  • Rogers general information on Vision Accessibility Products/Options
  • Rogers Accessibility Desk (877) 508-1760 (will have all pricing information on Rogers Ignite. you can also dial *234 on any Rogers phone
  • As of October 21st, 2018 Rogers will be offering a 30% discount to people with disabilities (for example a CNIB card or other evidence will be required for the discount) If already subscribed to vision products, it will not roll over automatically (like if you have Braille bills)

 

The Ignite Box Demonstration

  • The Ignite Box has the same tech as the Comcast X1 box and has been enhanced with a new remote, voice commands and a screen reader
  • With the voice commands you can speak into the remote and search for shows whether they are on cable or Netflix or your PVR
  • You can search shows by which are audio described
  • The unit comes with its own wireless modem which is a very good one (members report it is resolving long standing wifi dead zone issues)
  • Base speed on modem is 150 MB (very fast)
  • Only one box in the household needs a coaxial cable (the cable from the wall)
  • New features include Restart button (to restart a show), record and a tone for when the menu has reached the end
  • New Enhancement of Volume control, separate for menu and TV is coming
  • You can press the  B button twice to active voice guidance on the remote
  • You can turn on “Voice guidance on” holding Accessibility button
  • All recordings stored in the  cloud:  200 Hours of recording comes with the base package
  • Base package also includes Apple App so you can watch shows through iPhone or iPad, max of 2 devices outside the home are allowed for viewing at a time. You cannot set a recording from mobile devices (must be done through the box)
  • You can also download the shows to your mobile device for travel or subway use
  • No AirPlay support for mobile devices (stream to chromecast, Bluetooth speaker etc.
  • Maximum of 5 boxes allowed per household
  • Rogers Wireless  has a $20 month discount for people with disabilities (cell phone
  • Question: Shaw- multiple boxes- each box has different settings? yes for rogers as well you can name your box it too
  • No support currently for Amazon Prime
  • No adult content
  • Flex Channels in the top tier packages you can  swap out called “Free for Me”  only channels u are paying for)
  • KidsZone, restricts children’s access based on your PIN

 

Updates

  1. Metrolinx- Triplinx app and website are more accessible now
  2. Presto App- update, you can check your Presto balance if you have an
  3. Android phone with NFC (Near Field Comms) technology
  4. Crosstown App- Can give you updates on construction sites- accessibility is still an issue
  5. Way Around-App- It works like the pen friend with barcodes and text/speech you can input to code, but no actual pen so no loss of data if you switch phones
  6. Next month’s meeting will be about  learning NVDA (free screen reader) : NVDA 1O1 Part 1.

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, November 15 at 6pm
  • Location: CNIB Community Hub space at 1525 Yonge Street, just 1 block north of St Clair on the east side of Yonge, just south of Heath.
  • Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 6pm.

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group Overview:

  • GTT Toronto is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Toronto promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

http://www.GTTProgram.Blog/

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.

 

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Music Apps, September 20, 2018

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

September 20, 2018

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, September 20 at the CNIB Community Hub.

 

*Note: Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.

 

September 2018 Topic: Music Apps and Services

 

GTT Toronto September 20, 2018 Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Thanks again to Chris Malec for taking these awesome notes! People may not realize it, but she writes these in real time!

 

Ian opened the meeting.

Next month’s meeting will be on accessible TVs, and we’ll be joined by Kim Kilpatrick, the founder of GTT.

Jason took over to give some updates. It’s possible that next month, we’ll also be joined by a representative from Rogers, to demonstrate their new accessible cable box. It’s called Rogers Ignite TV. It’s based off of the U.S. system from Comcast, which is largely accessible as a set-top box.

CNIB just announced a new program called Phone It Forward, this week. People or corporations can donate used cell phones, and CNIB will be distributing them to clients who need them. The phones will be stripped, then loaded with accessibility aps. It’s meant to be a no-cost deal for the client. We don’t know what the cut-off is for the age of donated phones. A tax receipt will be issued for any donated phone, but an employee said they’ll only be using iPhone 5 or higher. At this point there’s nothing in place about data plans, but they’re trying to work that out. The push right now is to get donations of phones. The phones will be unlocked.

Jason raised the topic of rearranging the structure of our meetings. We want to encourage discussion back and forth about whatever topics people want to share information about. This will comprise the first part of meetings, and a presentation will be the second part. The idea is to bring problems or something you’d like more information about, and draw on resources from the group. Also, bring any new information or tips that you’ve discovered.

 

Tips that arose from discussion

When using a touch pad, curl all your other fingers inward to avoid accidentally activating something you didn’t intend.

Turning off the Reading Pain in Outlook will prevent or avoid many annoying problems. Do this by pressing Alt V, P, N, arrow down to Off, and hit enter there. The Thunderbird keystroke is F8.

Talking Tuner is an ap for tuning instruments or your voice. It’s accessible and voice-activated.

For success with the Seeing AI ap bar code reader, try laying the object on a table for stability, then hold the phone 8 inches or so away. Bar codes on boxes are often on an edge or the bottom. Light levels can matter too. It will use the flash, but it might help to have a light on. Try rotating the object slowly and incrementally, not continually. On cans and jars, the code is often at the seem of labels. Cans are more challenging, so if you’re learning, try starting with angular boxes.

Tap Tap See and KNFB Reader have both been updated recently.

The Identify ap is an alternative if you’re not fond of Seeing AI. Both aps are free. There’s an ap called Envision AI that has a small cost associated with it, that’s available on iPhone and Android.

The advantage of having the Microsoft Office subscription version is that it gets updated very often. There have been issues around instability with Excel. The problems come and go, but having the subscription version is the best way to keep current with updates that solve problems. Microsoft has a Disability Answer Desk, at 1-800-936-5900. They know about screen readers, and are a great resource. If they can’t answer your question, they will escalate it.

Apple also has an accessibility desk. 1-877-204-3930.

The topic of Libre Office was raised. It’s the free version of Microsoft, and is the descendant of Open Office. It doesn’t use the ribbon structure, but it seems to have some accessibility issues. It works better with NVDA. It can be used with files created in conventional Microsoft products.

A risk in continuing to use old versions of mainstream software like MS 2007, is that, as you update your screen reader, things might become incompatible, because the AT companies aren’t making their products with older mainstream software in mind. If it works, keep using it. Also, if you have files sent to you from other people who are using newer versions of mainstream software, you might have trouble reading them. For example, if you receive a document created in pre-2007, and it has tables, Jaws won’t read them. You have to save them in the new format.

For anyone using tables and a screen reader, one piece of advice is to make your heading titles short, as the screen reader will have to read the whole thing each time you move within the table.

For advice using Jaws with very specific software like SPSS, stats management, the best advice is to contact Freedom Scientific. SPSS may have their own accessibility team.

The ap called, Transit, was recently updated, and works well. Their release notes are thorough and amusing.

The Triplynx ap is also very good.

 

Main Presentation

Jason took over to talk about music aps. Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music are the main three. Most of these services have a free and a paid version. They’re all about $10 to $12 per month for an individual membership, and $15 or so for a family membership. These are streaming services. Spotify’s free version will let you search for an artist. It will then put together a playlist of artists including that one, plus others. You can’t play an entire album, and it will advertise at you. Go to Spotify.com and download the free trial. It can run on most playing services. It has a program that you can install on your PC that works well. The client looks like a regular web page with search functions. Spotify is known for discovering new music, which is a great feature of most music services. It generates a playlist each week based on what you’ve chosen recently. This is a great way to find out about music you’ll probably like, based on your tastes. The iPhone ap works well, and so does the Android ap. You can connect your Amazon Echo or Google Home, to your Spotify account, and play music on your device. You can download music, but can’t take it out of the Spotify ap. The free version has a time restriction, a certain amount of play per day. If you load the ap on your Apple device, there’s an option to pay using your iTunes account. There may be a small fee associated with doing this.

Jason loaded the ap on his phone and demonstrated what the screen looks like. It doesn’t integrate with Siri. It’s the most versatile of the services. The artist gets $0.001 per play.

Apple Music is exclusive to Apple, but there is an Apple Music ap for Android. It’s new within the past three years, and around the same price. The great thing about it is that it’s integrated into Siri. The Spotify trial is 30 days, but the Apple Music trial is 3 months. Apple Music has a “for you” tab, which is its way of introducing you to new music it thinks you’ll like. All three of these streaming aps have radio stations based on genres. These aren’t the way to access generalized regular or internet radio stations, you’d need TuneIn or your smart speaker to do that. Apple Music allows you to upload your personal music collection of MP3 songs into your ap using iTunes. It will also replace poor quality versions of songs with a better quality version if it has one. One caution here is that improperly named or tagged files will give you trouble in playback.

Google Play Music isn’t particularly differentiated from the other two, it’s really more about which devices you’re using. Apple and Google both allow you to download music and play it from other aps. All three aps are accessible. Google Play offers a 30 day trial.

Other smaller services exist, like Amazon Music, but their collections tend to be smaller. Tidal is a service for streaming high quality music. It’s around $20 per month, but the quality matters to some people. The interface can be tricky. The files are much bigger, so keep that in mind regarding data use. They don’t tend to have as big a selection. HD Tracks is a service where you pay by track, rather than a flat subscription fee.

Spotify allows you to set the quality that you get, and you can choose to get lower quality when you’re using data verses y-fi.

YouTube is another source for free music. YouTube Music is a new service. It’s a downloadable ap. It’s got an enormous selection. The auto-play feature will essentially make a playlist. Playing it through the Apple TV gives you a lot less ads. Creating actual playlists with YouTube and Voiceover is quite difficult.

The Sonos ap will perform a search on all the services you’re subscribed to.

If you’re subscribed to more than one service, you can specify to your smart speaker, which service you want to search on.

Apple Music gets updated whenever you do an IOS update. Spotify updates every few weeks. Accessibility glitches usually get addressed pretty promptly.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, October 18 at 6pm
  • Location: CNIB Community Hub space at 1525 Yonge Street, just 1 block north of St Clair on the east side of Yonge, just south of Heath.
  • Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 6pm.

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group Overview:

  • GTT Toronto is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Toronto promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes for the 2017 Fall and 2018 Spring Seasons are Now Available Online

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

Posted on August 13, 2018

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB

 

Thanks to Ian White and Jason Fayre for managing and facilitating the GTT Toronto Group we now have access to the great Summary Notes from their entire list of past meetings.

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes 2017 and 2018

 

 Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, September 20 at 6pm
  • Location: CNIB Community Hub space at 1525 Yonge Street, just 1 block north of St Clair on the east side of Yonge, just south of Heath.
  • Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 6pm.

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group Overview:

  • GTT Toronto is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Toronto promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
    • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Aira Smart Glasses Explained, May 17, 2018

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

May 17, 2018

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, May 17 at the CNIB Community Hub.

 

*Note: Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.

 

May 2018 Topic – Aira Smart Glasses Explained:

 

GTT Toronto May 17, 2018 Meeting Summary can be found at this link:

 

Thanks again to Chris Malec for taking these awesome notes! People may not realize it, but she writes these in real time!

Jason opened the meeting by saying that there was a BlindSquare announcement that many airports will be BlindSquare enabled; they went live today.

Tonight’s meeting is about AIRA, which is newly launching in Canada. Our guests are Greg and Kevin from AIRA.

Len Baker Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Innovation, spoke on behalf of CNIB. CNIB wants to unleash the power of technology. We want to make sure accessibility is built in to products off the shelf, and to remove cost as a barrier to getting technology into the hands of blind and visually impaired people who need it. This can work first through government eg; the ADP program, then through industry and infrastructure. AIRA, BlindSquare and KeyToAccess are three partnerships that CNIB is involved with to better the lives of its clients. Len’s role in CNIB is to help foster these kinds of partnerships with all kinds of organizations.

Kevin began by explaining that AIRA stands for artificial intelligence remote assistant. You download an ap, then dial up a live agent who can see through your phone camera, or through glasses. The glasses have a camera mounted on the side. Either way, you’ll live stream video to trained agents. These agents provide instant access to information. They’re not meant to replace basic skills, but they can check labels, navigating a new environment, assembling furniture etc. From a navigation point of view, the agent won’t tell you what to do, just give you information.

Greg took over. If you have the ap, you’ll find that all CNIB locations have been AIRA enabled for two days as a trial. The ap will tell you that you’re in an AIRA access location. This means that, whether you have an account or not, you can use the service for free in that location.

The agents are heavily screened. We get thousands of applicants, and are very strict in the hiring process. The agents are trained to think like a pair of eyes, not like a brain. Their job is to tell you what they see, not what they think, or what you should do.

Greg then did a demo. He opened the ap. He immediately got a notification saying that he could call for free, because he’s in a “free access” location, i.e. the CNIB. AIRA has been partnering with many organizations and businesses to do this, airports for example. He tapped on the “call AIRA for free” button. Greg asked the agent for a general description. The agent described the room, wall colour, tables, items on the tables, individuals along the edges of the table, artwork on the wall. Greg asked for more detail about what was on the table. The agent replied, “A 1l Sprite bottle, grapes, cheese and crackers.”

Greg then asked the agent to describe what she could see in his profile. She said what they look for are things like whether you use a guide dog or a cane, what level of vision you have, how much detail you prefer in description, and how you prefer to be given directions, clockface verses cardinal directions etc. Greg explained that, when you sign up, you complete a five-minute questionnaire about your preferences, that goes into your profile.

The agents are distributed throughout the U.S. They need to prove that they have a secure, quiet location to work from, and get thorough background checks. The background check includes a criminal background check.

When you sign up, you get a pair of glasses. They connect wirelessly. You can then choose to use the glasses or your phone camera. Navigation tasks or anything you need to have your hands free for, are good choices for using the glasses.

Some users wear their phone on a lanyard, or place it in a pocket with the camera exposed. Many users prefer the phone camera at all times. The phone camera is sharper, and better for reading; the glasses are better for panning.

An agent can invoke a holding period if you’re call is cut off before your task is complete, so that you’ll get the same agent next time. Often, agents will take a photo of something so that they can enlarge it and see it more clearly, or transcribe it into an email and send it to you labelled. Students use it to have blackboard notes transcribed.

When you call in, the agent gets a dashboard. They see your camera image, a Google location map of where you are, and a Google Maps search box, so they can look for something for you. The agents’ ability to multitask is truly impressive. They might be navigating an airport or describing an art installation.

IOS10 or later is what’s required. AIRA has a partnership with ATT, which has global connections. When you sign up in Canada, you get a small My-Fi box that handles all your data, because this takes a lot of bandwidth. You can use Wi-Fi too. It doesn’t use your data if you’re using the glasses, but it does if you’re using your phone camera. The charge on the My-Fi lasts about six hours, and the charge on the glasses lasts about two hours. For $89.00 U.S. you get 100 minutes per month, the glasses, and the My-Fi. This converts to $113 Canadian as of this writing. The calls aren’t recorded, but you can arrange to record a call if you want to. Australia and Canada are the latest new additions, but the UK and Ireland are coming. You can still use it in other countries if you use your phone camera. It’s not clear yet whether AIRA is available in parts of Canada that aren’t covered by Rogers.

An agent can remote into your computer to help you through processes that aren’t accessible to a screen reader. Some users use it for fashion sites, matching etc. At the end of each call you can rate the agent and leave comments. The community is still small enough to be pretty tight, so any bad behavior on the part of an agent would become known pretty quickly.

$329 is unlimited minutes. You can up your plan if you know there’s a month you’ll be needing it a lot. The minimum commitment is one month. Renewal will be automatic, so canceling requires you to take action.

When creating your profile, you can include photos of people important to you, which can help you find them in a crowd. You can ask an agent to favourite pictures, which means they’re kept in your profile. This might be useful for taking a picture of your luggage, to make it easier to find at an airport. You require a phone to use the ap. You can’t use it with just the glasses and My-Fi.

If you sign up today, you should have your glasses within approximately five days. As soon as you sign up however, your account is active, and you can use the service through your phone. The cost is explained by the fact that you’re getting live time with a highly trained professional.

Agents will not speak while you’re crossing a street; this is a very strict policy, from a liability perspective. There’s a slightly gray area: if you’re crossing and missing the kerb they might say something. It’s an information tool, not a safety tool. The explorer agent relationship is emphasized; you can get as much information as you want.

An agent has the right to end a call if they’re not comfortable.

Hearing aids can connect if necessary, and a text communication option is coming. This could be useful not only for hearing impaired users, but for times when you’re in an environment where you can’t speak out loud, but need information. The audio is rooted through your phone, so you can use whatever headphones you choose, or your phone speaker.

AIRA is connected to the prioritizing protocol of ATT, so if you’re in a crowded environment, AIRA calls get prioritized just below emergency data transfer. Users must be 18 or older.

Greg explained that one of the challenges is trying to mediate the social impact of using AIRA, and having the public around you confused by what you’re doing. People will still offer to help, and you have to figure out how to balance that. It makes a different and new kind of social interaction. One solution is to just say you’re on the phone. There’s a sighted-person social cue, point to your ear to indicate that you’re on the phone, and people will go away.

When you sign up, you can gain access to the AIRA community. There’s a mailing list and a Facebook group.

AIRA has partnerships with Uber and Lift. The agent can summon the car for you and help you find the car, or contact the driver for you. Work is in progress to have French-speaking agents available in the future.

You can go right to the AIRA site. There’s a sign-up form. You can download the ap, then find the, become an explorer, button. This will take you to the sign-up process. It’s a choice of whether you want to sign up on the computer or the phone. There’s a referral program. If you refer someone, you each get a free month. Whatever plan you sign up for, is what you’ll get as your second free month.

 

 Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, June 21 at 6pm
  • Location: CNIB Community Hub space at 1525 Yonge Street, just 1 block north of St Clair on the east side of Yonge, just south of Heath.
  • Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 6pm.

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group Overview:

  • GTT Toronto is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Toronto promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, What Was New At CSUN, April 19, 2018

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

April 19, 2018

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, April 19 at the CNIB Community Hub.

 

*Note: Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.

 

April 2015 Topic – What Was New At CSUN:

 

GTT Toronto April 19, 2018 Meeting Summary can be found at this link:

 

Jason opened the meeting by greeting participants who joined via the Zoom conferencing system. Tonight’s guest speaker is Stephen Ricci. He will be speaking about his experiences at CSUN, which is the largest assistive technology workshop in the world. It’s held annually in San Diego.

Jason interjected with a couple of comments and ideas. One thing that isn’t happening as much in this group as we might like, is to have formal time to exchange questions or curiosity about specific technologies. Our meetings have generally consisted of a speaker, then social time, but the idea of GTT is to share information between members of different levels of knowledge and experience. This is what we’d like to encourage, so at the end of the meeting tonight, we’ll have a go-around to ask if anyone has questions they’d like to ask.

Stephen then took over. The conference offers a pre-conference portion, which is a good idea if you’re attending for the first time; it helps orient you to what’s available and how to get the most out of the experience. It’s often true that you learn more after-hours socializing, than you do in the formal workshops. Next year it’s moving to Anaheim. Over 4800 people attended in 2016. It’s not primarily a consumer show. Consumers do attend, but it costs over $500 U.S. to go, and it’s really directed at businesses, high-end users, researchers, professionals and policy-makers. The conference has several aspects, and it’s common for attendees to go with a specific agenda in mind.

The conference is launched on the first night by a keynote speaker. It’s a good way to get into the groove. The speakers range widely, and are usually entertaining. The exhibit hall is a collection of display tables where venders can show their latest products. The exhibit hall runs for around 3 days.

Networking is a huge part of the experience. You meet people, learn about new products, and find out about trends. There are a lot of parties and receptions sponsored by venders. There’s collaboration so that the largest organizations don’t overlap, so you can attend as many as possible. Smaller ones might be hosted by manufacturers, larger ones might be hosted by someone like Microsoft. Awareness, inclusivity and accessibility are the principles of the conference.

Another aspect of the conference is announcements and unveiling. Often announcements end up not being surprises, as the community is a bit small.

Presentations, panels and workshops go on, with a wide range of topics covered. They are categorized by disability streams. The conference covers multiple disabilities, so it’s necessary to focus on the area that’s relevant to you. Stephen said that the presentations and workshops have become less important to him than the networking and exhibit hall.

What’s new at CSUN this year? There are fewer venders, because there have been mergers. VFO was created by Freedom Scientific, Optelec, and AI Squared.

Notable products Steven saw included APH’s new product called Graffiti, a tactile graphics display. It’s a tactile device that will render an image on a page-sized surface. It’s not ready for release yet. It’s not arranged in cells, so it can be more flexible in what it shows. Stephen asked around at CSUN about the braille Orbit, and the answer he got is that the problem at this point is inventory. The Orbit is a 20 cell display that’s going to cost hundreds rather than thousands. It’s an international project that has had setbacks, but intends to bring an affordable braille display to blind users, especially in developing countries.

Hims is a company Stephen likes. He finds them to be leaders in innovation, and likes their staff. They’ve released the Polaris Mini, a 20 cell note-taker. It’s on an Android platform, and is being sold mainly to students. It’s braille in, braille out, has a hard drive, and has an introductory price of $4000 U.S. The Polaris, a 32 cell with the same functionality, is $6000 U.S. The Braille Sense U2 and the Braille Sense Mini are covered by ADP in Ontario, the Polarises aren’t covered yet.

Hims has a near and distance camera with a monitor, and they’ve introduced one with optical character recognition. They’re also reselling Handitech products. This is a European company that makes nice braille displays. Those aren’t covered by ADP. While the ADP program has some limitations, we’re lucky in Ontario compared to other provinces. Also, school-age students have access to quite a bit of funding for assistive tech through the schoolboard, and post-secondary institutions often offer bursaries for that purpose.

Every year seems to have themes at CSUN. This year, themes were head-worn tech gear like eSight. There was also OrCam, New Eyes, Patriot Point, Iris Vision, and Jordy. These range in complexity, but all essentially offer magnification in real-time. There was lots of talk of AIRA as well, glasses with a camera that connect you to a trained live agent to answer questions. The advantage of these types of tech is that they’re hands-free.

Other new things in prototype included insideONE Tactile braille Tablet by Insidevision. It runs Windows10, and is a note-taker by a new company trying to break into the market. It’s a tablet with a braille display, and raised braille keys. It’s about $5500 or $6000 U.S. These expensive products are mostly geared for the education sector. Another prototype product is the Braille Me, a 20 cell refreshable braille display from a company called Innovision from India. It has limited note-taking ability, and it’s being sold for under $500 U.S. It’s a direct competitor to the Orbit. The Braille Me is available now, but no one was sure how. The company’s online. They’re looking for distributers in North America, and their device uses magnetics. As a representative of Frontier Computing, Stephen is always on the lookout for new products to expand their line. He likes to stay aware however, that even if prices are cheaper for products from Asia, you need to consider what happens when the products need repair. There is usually no one in North America who can repair them. You need to consider how long will you be without the product while it’s being sent away for repair. Zoomax is a Pacific Rim company who make good products at good prices. They’ve opened a North American office recently, so we may see them coming up as a competitor for companies like Hims. The net effect may be to bring down prices overall.

VFO is shifting so that all of their products will update in the Autumn of each year, and be named for the year following its release. These include products like Jaws, Zoomtext, and Zoomtext Fusion. There is still a wide range of portable magnifiers. Table-top magnifiers are becoming more sleek and foldable.

Jason contributed that at CSUN, he got to check out the Canute, a 9 line 40 cell display. You can get about a half a printed page on it. Its best use is for things like math, braille music, or a calendar. Its cost is around $2000. Jason said he will be getting a unit for testing within a month or 2, and will be looking for testers.

A member asked about portable recording devices. Answers included the Victor Stream, the Olympus line, and the Plextalk. CSUN didn’t offer anything new this year. With an Android phone, you can go to the Google Play store, and look for aps with the highest rating. A member described an ap which records speech and converts up to 3 minutes of speech into text.

 

A member raised the question of good laptops. People generally agreed that there’s not a huge difference between mid-range and high-end models, but that cheaper models can be sluggish, particularly if you’re running multiple functions at the same time. SSD or solid state drives are becoming more and more common.

A member asked whether it’s possible to run a desktop computer without a monitor, and the answer was yes. Macs might freak out without a monitor, but you’re fine with Windows.

Jason asked for ideas for future meetings. A member suggested a go-around in which each member describes an ap they like, and how to get it.

Another member suggested an evening about audio devices in general and book players in particular.

A member raised the question of whether a 3D printer could be used to create music as an alternative to using braille music. He asked for some brainstorming on the idea. Another member described an online process where 3D printing can be crowd-sourced for a fee. The issue is that you need to have the program or blueprint to start with.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, May 17 at 6pm
  • Location: CNIB Community Hub space at 1525 Yonge Street, just 1 block north of St Clair on the east side of Yonge, just south of Heath.
  • Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 6pm.

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group Overview:

  • GTT Toronto is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Toronto promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.