Assistive technology news and info.
Baum is continuing its strategy of opening regional sales offices, on the heels of its U.S. opening in 2014. BAUM Retec (UK) is slated to open on July 1 with Ian Bradburn at the helm. Ian is a former National Sales and Marketing Manager for Sight & Sound Technology and has more recently worked in the world of beef jerky. They're already on Twitter at @BAUMRetecUK. To gain some insight on what it's like when opening a new sales office, check out this interview with David Bradburn about the U.S. arm of Baum at CSUN in 2014. Thanks to Dave Williams for the tip.
Hims is now shipping two previously-announced products, the Blaze ET digital media player and the 14-cell Smart Beetle braille display. The Blaze ET is the second in the Blaze series and includes a numeric keypad for data entry, similar to the BookSense. In addition to the usual array of book and music playback options, it includes optical character recognition, a calculator, color identifier, and an optional dictionary. It's available now for $749. The Smart Beetle, which currently sells for $1,295,can connect to up to 6 devices at once (5 Bluetooth plus one USB and runs for up to 24 hours of continuous use. Both items are also available from our sister site, A T Guys
Efforts are continuing to determine the best solutions for making fitness equipment accessible, and a new survey seeks input to help guide further research. The survey is being conducted by the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and seeks both blind and sighted participants to complete a 10-15 minute survey on fitness equipment with electronic consoles. Check the link on this post to take the survey.
The Institute for Visualization and Interactive Systems at the University of Stuttgart is seeking feedback on how blind and visually impaired individuals use remote assistance apps such as [Be My Eyes.]( http://www.blindbargains.com/b/12168) They've created a short survey, which we've linked to on this post, intended for those who have used the service. This survey is not affiliated with the developers of the free Be My Eyes app.
Version 2015.2 of the free NVDA screen reader has been released. This version includes a variety of new features including enhanced support for charts in Microsoft Excel, support for the latest version of MathPlayer for reading mathematical equations, and a list of bug fixes including the errant echoing of characters in some search boxes such as on the Google website. The complete list of changes in this release is below.
There's been a lot of talk about multiline braille displays, but one group has created a set of working units that are in the hands of testers. Dubbed the Canute, the display was demonstrated by Bristol Braille Technology, a UK-Based nonprofit and hackspace which recently created the prototype. The display includes 4 lines of text containing 28 cells per line and costs 440 pounds, or roughly $686 U.S. dollars as of the time of this post. Their website hints at a possible 8-line version as well. It uses off-the-shelf components and is powered by a Raspberry Pie, an inexpensive ultraportable computer often used by tinkerers. The software powering the display is also open-source. Check out the press release below to learn more. Thanks to Dave Williams for the tip.
The transition to Unified English Braille has meant some tough decisions for companies who produce software that involves braille translation. To this end, Duxbury Systems has confirmed that their secondary transcription product, MegaDots, has been officially discontinued and is no longer being sold. MegaDots was originally produced by Raised Dot Computing, later Braille Planet, and was the chief competitor to Duxbury's own product until it was purchased in August of 1999. The interface and feature set of MegaDots had a loyal following, and Duxbury Systems continued to sell both products until the recent announcement. MegaDots does not support the UEB code, which will become the standard in the United States by 2016. Technical support will be available through July 4, 2016 and those who purchased MegaDots recently are being given the opportunity to transition to Duxbury. The complete message from their website is below.
Android users can now join their iOS friends in reading books from the National Library Service. The BARD mobile app, which allows users to download and listen to audio books and magazines, is now available for Android. U.S. members with a valid National Library Service account can sign in with their current username and password after downloading the app from Google Play. We've linked to the app from this post.
HumanWare has quietly endet most support for older BrailleNote units including the mPower and BrailleNote PK. As a side-effect of this change, BrailleNote mPower, Classic, and PK users who may have been eligible for updates are no longer able to download the software keys necessary to install these updates, meaning the updates are no longer available for installation. HumanWare has posted a disclaimer on the support pages for these older units, which we have reprinted below.
HumanWare has released the previously-announced update to the Trekker Breeze handheld GPS system. The Breeze+ uses the same housing as the original and includes a greatly-improved GPS chip which should lead to better accuracy and quicker satellite acquisition time. Put simply, the locations and directions given by the unit should be much more on target than the original. New users can get the Breeze+ for $799 while existing users can pay $199 to upgrade their unit with the new hardware. You can learn more from our CSUN interview with Greg Stilson which includes a demo of the unit. The complete press release is below.
Netflix continues to expand its library of content with audio description, which now includes all 3 seasons of the political drama House of Cards. This joins a growing roster of over 70 titles of both Netflix originals and programs from other networks which now includes described tracks. Marvel's Daredevil and Orange is the New Black are among the originals that were posted previously. In case you're new to Netflix and Audio Description, here's how to enable description on various platforms.
HumanWare has anounced the release of KeySoft 9.5, the latest free upgrade for the BrailleNote and VoiceNote Apex. This version includes the previously-announced exam mode feature which lets teachers lock parts of the unit such as the spell checker while taking tests. Also included are an Internet radio feature similar to that of the Victor Stream, some tools for converting math in Unified English Braille to print, and a Quick Notes feature. We've included the complete anouncement below.
Registration is now open for the American Council of the Blind's 54th Annual Convention. This year's event will be held at the Sheraton Dallas from July 3-11. Online registration is available through June 25 and can be accessed from the link on this post.
Serotek has announced a major upgrade for its DocuScan Plus OCR product for Windows and Mac computers. The forthcoming third generation of the software will include a new scanning and OCR engine which will read documents in multiple languages, enhanced PDF support, enhanced integration with the iBlink Radio app, scanning of saved images, and Bookshare support among other improvements. Preorders for the upgrade are available now for $149 with an expected release in June. The complete Email release is below. Thanks to Prattik for the tip.
As preparation for the adoption of Unified English Braille continues, more resources are appearing to help people learn the new format. The new Braille Spelling Dictionary by Gregory Hurray includes 1,400 elementary level words in print, uncontracted braille, and contracted UEB braille all on the same page. it's a great tool for new braille users or those needing an introduction to UEB. It's available now for $15 from National Braille Press.
Talkback v4.2 Officially Released with Suspend Shortcut, Customized Gestures, and No More Circle Menus
Google i/o will soon descend upon us like a sky diver at the end of this month, however, the little company from Mountain View has already begun to give us good news with the official release of the 4.2 version of the Talkback screen reader for Android. This release contains two significant changes that are sure to make some long-time users happy, and some who were on the fence about Android even happier.
Imagine walking around with a backpack on your shoulder and a camera attached to your glasses. The resulting images would be transfered to a tactile display which would give you an idea of your surroundings. A South Korean company called Tactisplay is betting on this idea with a new product which will translate images from a USB camera or computer monitor to raised graphics. The 64 by 48 pin array includes over 3,000 pins and will last for up to 10 hours on a single charge. Pricing is expected to be around $7,000, much lower than the cost of some high-end single line braille displays. Few additional details are known, but you can get some contact info and additional info in the press release below. Thanks to Dave Williams for the tip.
Netflix continues to add movies and TV shows with audio description, bringing the list now to 63 titles. Since our original list of 39 titles, Netflix has added popular TV shows including American Dad and Bob's Burgers, Netflix original Orange is the New Black, and some childrens shows including Monster Math Squad. The list of the 24 new titles is included below:
Apple TV owners now have another outlet for their binge watching couch potato sessions in the ABC Network channel. While the full programming slate does not sport audio description, namely none of the hour-long dramas, many of the network s popular comedies now feature descriptive video tracks.
Version 1.5.3 of Sendero's Seeing Eye GPS for the iPhone is a notable update, despite its version number. This release includes Google Places as a source for Points of Interest. Google POIs are often some of the most up-to-date, thanks to its large community of active users, and will be ideal especially for locating businesses which have recently opened. The free update is available now in the iTunes App Store. The short changelog is below:
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