Assistive technology news and info.
Signs of fall are in the air. Leaves are falling, Daylight Saving Time is about to end, and Freedom Scientific has released their annual update to Jaws. Version 17 of the venerable screen reader has just been released to the masses with a major focus on website productivity and scripting. Scripts can now be written for individual websites, and users can save website-specific settings. It includes support for the Windows touch keyboard as well as other new gestures and commands for touch screen navigation. Some features are also being removed, such as sports scores from ESPN and the settings merge utility. You can download the latest version now, which will cost one SMA count for existing users or run as a demo for others. Here's a link to the What's New file.
The wait is finally over for KNFB Reader fans on Android. Sensotec, in collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind, have released a version of the wildly popular OCR and text recognition app to Google Play. The Android version looks similar to its iOS counterpart and recognizes printed materials or imported files within a few seconds. Users can download a trial for free and receive 25 recognitions before needing to upgrade to the full version for $99.95. Android users will also be able to share files to other apps using Android's native share functionality, and read images using the voices on their device including Vocalizer and Eloquence. You can download the trial now from Google Play, which works on Android 4.3 on up.
A team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has developed a new iPhone app which offers turn-by-turn directions inside buildings, among other places. Navcog is the latest entrant in the growing category of alternative navigational apps, aiming to help blind and visually impaired people navigate buildings and around college campuses. This app uses wireless censors to pinpoint the user's location to within a few feet and provide contextual navigation. The current deployment is limited to a few areas of the college campus, the platform has been created using an open architecture that could seemingly be deployed in other places. If you're nearby, try it out now on the App Store. Here's a more detailed article on the app. Thanks to Mark on Twitter for the tip.
There's been a lot of talk of affordable braille displays, but some tangible results may soon be on the horizon. According to the latest edition of the American Printing House for the Blind newsletter, field testing will soon begin for a 20-cell, sub-$500 braille display, developed by theTransforming Braille Group. The display will connect via USB or Bluetooth and read braille and text files from another device or an SD card slot. It's targeted as a braille reading device and not meant to compete with higher-priced offerings. APH, the National Federation of the Blind, and the Perkins School for the Blind are conducting field evaluations over the coming months. Check the link on this post to the APH newsletter for more details.
A group of MIT alumni are seeking participants who are willing to be interviewed about a possible new mobile technology. According to the interview page, " We have a possible technology in mind which we feel may improve aspects of the experience, however for the moment our goal is to gather some firsthand knowledge of what online mobile interactions are like for the community, rather than gather opinions about our proposal."
Interviews would be done over phone, Skype, or another means. For more information, fill out the form linked from this post.
After a brief absence, the American Printing House for the Blind has reintroduced the Refreshabraille 18-cel braille display. The latest rendition, known as version 3, includes a new, simpler Bluetooth pairing mode, ergonomic updates to the directional pad and space bar, and Micro USB charging (the older version had Mini USB). it still sells for $1,695 and is available now. We've included the list of changes from the latest APH newsletter below.
The Fopydo scanning accessory we told you about last week has reached its funding goal on Kickstarter. 95 people donated a total of $4,500 to fund the companion base for a reading aid for mobile scanning apps such as the KNFB Reader. From here, the creator, Tomek Wardega, plans to post weekly updates to their Kickstarter page and release the accessory later this year. Retail is expected to be around $35.
Tomek Wardega is trying to raise money to create a new stand to help blind people take pictures of documents. The creator of the Fopydo scanning stand is seeking $4,000 to create a complementary book reading base.
According to the Kickstarter page, "A book reading aid was designed for the blind and visually impaired to make it easy to read printed books and documents using applications like KNFB Reader, Prizmo or TextGrabber. It may also be used by all who can see, but would like to convert images of book pages to text and have the text read to them using tools available on their mobile device."
The book reading base would include sections of foam that would hold an open book in place, ensuring that pages wouldn't turn during scanning. Users can pledge $25 to receive just the base or $35 for the base and stand, with an estimated November delivery date.
As of this post, $2,153 of the $4,00 goal has been raised,. The money must be raised by October 8 for the crowdfunding campaign to be successful. Check the Kickstarter page for more information and a much better description of the stand and base.
The American Printing House for the Blind has released a free version of its Nearby Explorer GPS app for Android.
For many, the expiration of a Netflix contract with Epix Movies on September 30 means the need to sign up to another service to watch a variety of hit movies. But for those who have been enjoying these titles with audio description, the ramifications are higher. Films including World War Z, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Star Trek Into Darkness will disappear from Netflix in under a week. And while these titles may soon appear on competing streaming service Hulu, the latter does not currently offer audio described content. Other audio-described titles affected include Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Here's a list of shows leaving Netflix in September.
The American Foundation for the Blind has been undertaking a large project to digitize the Helen Keller archive, and is currently seeking an additional $25,000 in donations to further this effort. Thanks to a challenge by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the $25,000 in donations would be matched, meaning that dollars received in this campaign would be doubled. The collection includes images, letters, drawings, and other items from her estate which have been donated to the AFB. It is promised that the collection will also be made accessible to the blind, an effort not often seen in digitization efforts. Donations, which are being accepted for this grant through September 30, can be made on this page. The full donation letter is below.
On Friday, from 12am EDT until 11:59pm PDT you'll be able to enroll in Prime for just $67. You'll also be able to buy as many Prime Gift Subscriptions as you want for $67 as well. Amazon Prime is normally $99 per year and is always subject to go up, as it has in the past.
Here's the cool part. Amazon Prime Gift Subscriptions never expire, so you can lock in the $67 rate for as long as you want! You can have Prime Gifts emailed to you now and you can file them away in a folder in your email. They will always be good for a full year of Prime and they will never expire.
When you send yourself a gift year of Prime you will get an email with a special link that instantly gives a year of Prime to whatever account opens the special link. The gift of Amazon Prime isn t auto-renewing like regular Amazon Prime. Just set your Prime not to auto-renew so that you don t automatically get charged $99 in the future. How's that for a deal!
The term "haptic"" is often associated with vibratory feedback, but in reality, it's a more general word that simply relates to the sense of touch. Adam Spiers, a post-doc associate at the Yale University robotics lab, has created a new GPS device with this notion in mind, called the Haptic Sandwich. While other related gadgets indicate direction by various vibration patterns, the top half of the Haptic Sandwich actually twists to indicate the direction of travel needed to reach a destination. Among the possible applications for the device is aiding sighted and visually impaired hikers by guiding them using an unobtrusive device. You can read more from the original article at Enginneering.com
Another middle school student is working to develop a solution to help blind and visually impaired students. Seventh grader Hari Bhimaraju of Cupertino, Calif. has developed a tool to help blind and visually impaired students learn more about chemical elements including their atomic structure. She is one of 30 nationwide finalists in the Broadcom Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering Rising Stars (MASTERS) competition which will be held October 2-6. She explains the tool in a recent article in the Marin Independent Journal.
"It's a tool which helps you learn about the elements in the periodic table. So you enter in an atomic number or a chemical symbol or a chemical name, then it will provide you with all these results," she said. "With that, it will draw the atom and then step by step while writing the electron configuration so that you can understand what part of the atom is what."
Winning the competition will net Bhimaraju $25,000. The Computer History Museum in Mountain View will host a public exhibition of the project's finalists on October 3.
According to the Broadcom MASTERS website, "Science fairs around the country nominate the top 10% of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students to enter this prestigious competition. After submitting the online application,
are selected and
present their research projects and compete in team hands-on STEM challenges to demonstrate their skills."
C-fes Co. Ltd. has released an iOS app which allows for the direct reading of braille files using speech. The $14.99 Voice Braille Reader reads .BRL and .BRF files, such as those downloaded from the NLS BARD service or BookShare. It can also import files from Dropbox, Evernote, iCloud, and other applications. It also supports adjustable reading speed, a synchronized display with the braille that is currently being spoken, and reading of braille inside .ZIP files. If you wish to try out the app before you buy, you can get Voice Braille Reader Lite which allows for up to five minutes of reading per day. Hat tip to David Goldfield for the discovery.
More companies are bridging the gap between desktop CCTV's and portable video magnifiers. Optelec has introduced the Traveler HD a portable video magnifier with a 13-inch screen. Weighing 4.5 pounds, it magnifies from 2.4X to 30X and also can store up to 1,000 images for later viewing. Optelec includes what it calls a Slide and Read mechanism which acts similarly to the X-Y table found on desktop models. It runs for 3 hours on a single charge and retails for $2,495.
You can learn more about the latest from Optelec from our NFB convention interview with Optelec from Joe Steinkamp.
Have you ever had problems holding a toothbrush, or squeezing the toothpaste in the correct direction? Some enterprising inventors from China have tackled this supposed problem with a special toothbrush for the blind. It includes guides to ensure that a blind person is correctly applying toothpaste to the toothbrush, and the toothbrush is facing in the correct direction.
Here's the patent abstract, translated from Chinese, courtesy of Google:
The utility model discloses a special toothbrush for the blind. The special toothbrush comprises a toothbrush wall and a toothbrush head. The toothbrush wall is provided with a braille holding area, and the toothbrush head is provided with a braille toothpaste squeezing area. The special toothbrush is reasonable in structure, is specially used for tooth brushing by the blind and guarantees that the blind hold the toothbrush to enable the toothbrush head to be opposite to themselves so as to squeeze the toothpaste; and the blind are simultaneously reminded of squeezing the toothpaste in a right area.
You can read the complete patent here. Thanks to Ka for the tip.
Graduate students at the University of Washington are interested in creating tools to benefit computer programmers who use screen readers. They are looking for screen reader users who have graduated with a computer science degree for a short survey. Participants will be compensated with a $5 Amazon gift card and also will give a higher award for participating in a follow-up interview. Check the link on this post for more info or to take the survey.
Hims has released a free update to the BrailleSense line of notetakers with a variety of improvements and changes. Version 8.5 includes an automatic book downloader for titles from the NLS BARD service. In addition, users can now search for text in files globally, and read many file formats in the new document reader. Email set-up is now been streamlined, with automatic account configuration for Google, Yahoo, iCloud, and other providers. A new web radio database includes thousands of Internet radio stations for immediate listening. YouTube videos can now be downloaded. In the calculator, UEB is now supported, and additional conversions are included, such as between binary and decimal.
You can download the latest updates directly from the unit, or from the Hims Resource Center page. The complete release notes are below, and also available in Microsoft Word format.
The American Printing House for the Blind has once again partnered with Orbit Research to make a mainstream calculator accessible. The Orion TI-30XS MultiView Talking Scientific Calculator takes many of its cues from the TI-84 Plus, an accessible graphing calculator released in 2013. A small attachment makes this scientific model, also from Texas Instruments, accessible by adding voice prompts and a review mode among other features. You can order it now from APH for $399 plus shipping. We've included more information from APH's September newsletter below.
Displaying 381 through 400 of 547 results.