Resource: New Tech for 2019: A Wrap-up of the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference – AccessWorld® – February 2019

New Tech for 2019: A Wrap-up of the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference

Author: J.J. Meddaugh

Date Written: Feb 23, 2019 at 4:00 PM

Date Saved: 2/24/19, 10:59 AM

Source: http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pubnew.asp?DocID=aw200208

2019 looks to be a busy year for new products and innovations, as evidenced by the exhibit hall at the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) annual conference in Orlando. This year’s event was held January 30 through February 2 at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Convention Center and featured an array of devices from transportable video magnifiers to tech toys for kids and seniors. I’ve recapped some of the major highlights below. AFB AccessWorld also sponsored exhibit hall coverage on Blind Bargains, and links are included to audio interviews with text transcripts where appropriate.

The BrailleNote Touch Gets Refreshed

Humanware’s BrailleNote Touch has been a popular option for students and teachers since its release in 2016. But the hybrid touchscreen and braille keyboard device has been stuck on an outdated version of Android due to hardware limitations.

Humanware sought to modernize the notetaker with the announcement of the BrailleNote Touch Plus. It has basically the same shell and shape as its predecessor, but includes a faster processor, a USBC port for charging, and the Android 8.1 Oreo operating system. As Humanware’s Andrew Flatters explains in this Blind Bargains interview, moving to a modern version of Android allows Humanware to take advantage of up-to-date features such as the Chrome Web browser and the Google Assistant for voice commands. The unit also includes 4GB of memory and 64GB of built-in storage as well as support for more modern wireless and Bluetooth protocols.

Orders can be placed now for the BrailleNote Touch Plus in either 18- or 32-cell configurations, at $4,195 and $5,695 respectively. Current BrailleNote Touch users can upgrade to the new model, which will transplant the existing braille cells to a new unit, for $1,295.

A Braille Display of a Different Kind

The cost of a 32- or 18-cell braille display is still prohibitive for many people, so a company called BraiBook is offering an alternative idea with a product of the same name. The mouse-sized device includes a single braille cell and can be loaded with books in several formats. Characters are displayed in contracted or uncontracted braille a cell at a time, and the speed can be controlled using a joystick. A headphone jack allows the user to plug in an external headset or speaker to hear words as they are displayed. The small size and weight of the unit is its major advantage. But reading braille one cell at a time can be either tediously slow or nearly impossible, depending on the speed of the unit, potentially requiring a sharp learning curve. Priced at around $450, it faces an uphill climb against the likes of the Orbit Reader and BrailleMe, two 20-cell units available for about the same price. Hear more with an interview with BraiBook CEO Sébastien Lefebvre.

Magnified Options for People with Low Vision Revealed

There was no shortage of new video magnifying options on display at the conference. This year’s focus was on updates to what are often referred to as transportable video magnifiers, units that generally will sit on a desk but are light enough to be moved around if necessary.

Irie-AT is introducing the ReadEasy Evolve to the United States, a video magnifier that can capture an entire 11-by-17-inch sheet of paper in a single picture, useful for large items such as newspaper pages. Capturing is accomplished by moving the camera between two different mounting points. The lower camera hole is designed to read standard-sized paper, while the elevated slot is for larger documents. It was quick and painless to move the camera between the two slots. As for the actual reading of text, this was accomplished within about 4 seconds, though the company is working to make this even faster. Speech was clear using modern voices from the Vocalizer speech engine, and the optional keypad can be used for finer control. An optional monitor can be attached for users with low vision.

The 4-pound ReadEasy Evolve folds so it can be taken with you, and will run on an optional battery pack. The base unit is available from Irie-AT for about $2,000. You can listen to a demo with Irie-AT CEO Jeff Gardner who also talks about a new affordable braille embosser called the Braille Buddy.

Back over at the Humanware booth, two new and slightly heavier desktop magnifiers were announced, the Reveal 16 and Reveal 16I. Weighing in at a still transportable 13 pounds, Humanware is targeting these two models at two very different markets. The Reveal 16 is designed for seniors and elementary school students who desire a simple unit with basic controls. It features only four buttons: power, autofocus, zoom, and contrast. Images can be magnified from 1X to 45X and displayed in a variety of contrast modes. The camera can either point down at the base of the unit or be pointed outward for distance viewing.

Advanced users may prefer the Reveal 16I, which offers the same features as the basic model but adds a touchscreen, an OCR camera, and a fifth button, used for switching to an Android 7 tablet. Users of the Prodigi interface will be familiar with this mode, which can be used to read books aloud or run Android apps from Google Play.

Both models collapse and can be carried using an optional case. The Reveal 16 retails for $2,995 while the Reveal 16I sells for $3,995. Learn more with Humanware’s Eric Beauchamp who talks everything low-vision in this podcast.

A New Kind of Wearable

There weren’t as many wearables in the hall as in 2018, but Zoomax was showing a new take on the category. The Acesight is a lightweight headset that displays images using augmented reality. Individual screens are centered over each eye and display magnified images of what’s in front of you. This approach allows you to focus on what’s ahead of you while using your peripheral vision to see other items at the same time. Magnification is available in a variety of contrast modes from 1.1X to 15X. The Acesight will be available soon for $4,995. Learn more from Zoomax’s David Bradburn in this podcast.

Teaching Braille and Code to Kids

The American Printing House for the Blind was showing two products designed to teach important concepts to children who are visually impaired. BrailleBuzz is a toy designed for kids ages 2-5 to teach braille letters. The bumblebee-shaped toy includes buttons for each braille letter that announce the letter or its sound when pressed. A 6-cell Perkins-style braille keyboard is positioned below and will speak the braille letter that is typed, or play a sound if something besides a braille letter is entered. The BrailleBuzz is designed in the style of other audio-based children’s toys that teach basic letter and phonics concepts. It’s available now for $99.

Older kids may love Code Jumper, an educational toy collaboration between APH and Microsoft for teaching basic coding concepts. More and more kids are learning how to write code for computers or mobile devices, and many systems have been created to teach early foundations and concepts at a young age. Code Jumper is one of the first of these systems to be fully accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired.

The brains of the device are housed in the Code Jumper Hub, a Bluetooth device that will play back sounds or music based on what it is connected to. You may not be familiar with programming concepts such as loops, constants, or if statements, but the hands-on approach to the connected pods illustrates these and more to the most novice student or teacher. APH also plans on developing lessons for both teachers and students to complement the system. You can sign up for a waiting list to be informed when the product is released, likely later this year.

A New Guide for Seniors

Dolphin has completely rewritten the software it designed to simplify the Internet for seniors. The new GuideConnect allows you to read and write emails, listen to radio stations, read books, and browse the Web using a simplified interface. The Windows 10 software runs on computers, tablets, and can even be displayed on a TV using a customized set-top box and a remote control, similar to a Roku. The product will be available from Irie-AT in the United States starting at around $800, depending on options. You can listen to Gareth Collins talk about the benefits of the new software and other Dolphin developments in this podcast.

Conclusion

The ATIA conference was busier than in past years, and several major products were announced over the four-day event. We will continue to follow many of these products as they are released, and review some of them in future issues of AccessWorld. The CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, our next big opportunity to learn about new technology, moves to Anaheim this year and will be March 11-15. If you can’t make it, you can read about it right here.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

Comment on this article.

More by this author:

Share

 

Copyright © 2019 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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.

 

 

 

An Evaluation of OrCam MyEye 2.0 – AccessWorld® – August 2018

AccessWorld: Technology and People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired is a monthly periodical for anyone who uses or wants to use assistive technology, provides technology training, has students or clients who use technology, needs to make purchasing decisions, or wants to keep abreast of technological trends and events.
— Read on www.afb.org/afbpress/pubnew.asp

Next GTT national conference call Wednesday June 8 7 PM Eastern, 4 Pacific. New devices seen in recent GTT groups. 

Our next national GTT conference call will take place on Wednesday June 8 at 7 PM Eastern 4 Pacific.  Several GTT groups have seen or have had members see some very new devices recently.  We will have a discussion about the following new devices:

NuEyes Visual Prosthetic device

Braille note touch

Orcam

Orbit braille display.

Come and share your thoughts and ask any questions you might have about these devices.

Here is the call in info

1-866-740-1260 

Passcode 5670311