Assistive technology news and info.
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:
The Royal National Institute of Blind People is seeking feedback regarding the accessibility or lack thereof for the recent uK election in May. According to the survey page, "7 out of 10 blind and partially sighted people were prevented from voting during last May's European and local elections, because voting was not accessible."
If you voted in this year's election and are blind or partially sighted, you can offer your feedback using the survey linked from this post. The survey should take approximately 10-15 minutes.
The National Federation of the Blind has announced its 2015 scholarship class. This year's class of 30 will be recognized at the national convention in Orlando on July 10. Each winner is guaranteed at least $3,000 and may win as much as $12,000, in addition to a variety of other prizes which typically include more cash, a plaque, and assistive technology. Congratulations to this year's finalists, which are listed below.
The 2014 American Council of the Blind convention at The Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas will be its last at the location. The hotel closed for good this past Monday after a 60-year run. The 2,100 room hotel, which opened in 1955 is owned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which plans to demolish it to build convention and meeting facilities. We've linked to a report from a guest on the final night.
Online gaming platform RS Games has posted a one-page survey to gain feedback from its users. The survey asks users to rank the various games, solicits suggestions for new titles to ask, and also delves into whether people play the same games in other venues. Follow the link on this post to take the survey.
The schedule has just been released for this year's Google IO, Google's conference for developers and programmers which also includes a flurry of product updates and launches. While there's likely to be more sessions added, this year's conference appears to hint at a new Android version among other announcements. As for accessibility, two sessions are being presented, focusing on showing developers the simple ways to make their apps accessible. One of these will also be live-streamed. We've listed the accessibility-related sessions below. Here's a link to the complete schedule.
Version 1.5 of the KNFB Reader app for iOS devices has just been posted to the iTunes App Store. This minor free update includes support for the 2nd generation iPad Air as well as a couple of VoiceOver-specific fixes. We've included the version 1.5 changelog below.
The Seeing Eye, a New Jersey-based guide dog school, is back with their popular annual auction. The 7th annual affair includes 425 items ranging from vacations to blindness products. Items are available to fit just about any budget, and proceeds benefit the school and its programs. Check the link on this post to view the auction, which ends May 8.
Netflix is beginning to deliver on its audio description promise quicker than many had expected. As of this post, a total of 39 titles including Netflix original serie and movies are now available with audio description. Of note, this list includes a variety of shows that are described by third parties. A new Audio Description link is available from the Netflix home page which shows the current list, which is currently expanding raplidly. Here's the 39 shows available as of this post.
Mantra Lingua is likely a company that most people haven't heard of, but you are probably familiar with one of their products, the PenFriend Voice Recorder Labeler. A few months back, the PenFriend was replaced by a new model, the PenFriend2. This new version includes 4GB of internal memory, a simpler recording process, a mode for using the unit as a simple MP3 player, and colored label tags. A new software program which allows users to back up and restore recordings is now also available. Overall, the new unit is slightly smaller and lighter than the original. It's available now from RNIB in the UK and several retailers in other countries including LS&S in the U.S. where it sells for $149.
The NVDA Remote crowdfunding campaign, which accepted donations for the past month for a new add-on which will add remote access support to the NVDA screen reader, has completed and beta testing is now in progress. The campaign crushed its $10,000 goal in the first 3 days of the campaign, which was organized by Christopher Toth and Tyler Spivey. A total of $13,546 was donated by 187 people during the campaign, an average donation of $72.44. Of these, 69 people claimed awards at the $100 or higher level which included beta test access and a year of free tech support. To follow the progress of the add-on, visit the NVDA Remote website
A free patch has been released for the Hims Blaze EZ Multiplayer, enabling direct downloading of NLS BARD titles. Still numbered as version 1.10, this release also includes improvements to the update process and the built-in web radio support. We've linked to the download page and included the release announcement below.
Blastbay Studios, makers of the Q9 action game, and VGStorm, makers of Paladin of the Sky, have teamed up to release the new Windows audio game Psycho Strike. According to the description, "Psycho Strike is a mix between an RPG, a first person shooter and an adventure game. It captures the best parts of each genre in order to create a truly unique and groundbreaking gaming experience. In Psycho Strike, you take the roll of a gangster leader. Throughout your adventure you will have the opportunity to collect weapons, recruit new criminals for your team of violent outlaws, collect more and more powerful items to fortify your base, and just terrorize the city in general."
A demo version is now available with the game retailing for $24.95. Check the link on this post for more info.
For those who Have Received It, VarioUltra Firmware Released with Contracted/Computer Braille Toggle
If you're lucky enough to have received your Baum VarioUltra, a free firmware has been released with some minor improvements. Version 1.2 includes a "Master Switch" mode to quickly jump between contracted and computer braille and also returns more quickly from suspend. Here's a link to the complete release notes. Check the link on this post to download the update.
The Android TalkBack team has rolled out a significant beta release to Android's default screen reader. The first beta of TalkBack 4.2 offers the ability to customize gestures and keyboard shortcuts, a built-in screen dimming feature, and various other improvements and bug fixes. To get the beta, you must opt-in to the beta test group and be a member of the Eyes-free Android list from an account also linked to your device. Here's the complete changelog, as posted by Google's Kristian Monsen:
- More gesture customization available. All gestures can now be customized with all actions. .
- Assignable keyboard shortcuts.
- Option to suspend and resume TalkBack by long pressing both volume buttons. This must be enabled in TalkBack settings.
- Optional new local and global context menus. These can be shown as a regular Android list, the default is the circle style in this release.
- Optional screen dimming. If enabled the screen brightness will be reduced to almost zero when TalkBack is on and not suspended. The first three minutes after screen dimming is enabled it can be turned off by quickly pressing both volume button three times. During this time there are instructions on the screen on how to disable screen dimming for users who are not familiar with TalkBack.
All new features are opt in for this release.
- Sliders, or SeekBars, can now be controlled with the volume keys like EditText.
- EditText movement with volume control has been improved. Volume keys will now move cursor in EditText if it either has accessibility focus or if it has input focus and there is no accessibility focus on the screen.
- Checkboxes in preferences should now announce the correct value on Android L.
- Autoscrolling have been tweaked and will not mostly scroll lists.
Another television network is piloting audio described content online, this time in Australia. ABC, no not that ABC, but the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, plans to post up to 14 hours of programming per week on its iview streaming platform. Programs will initially be available on its iPhone and ipad apps, with expansions to Android devices, computers, and high-definition televisions planned during the 15 month pilot project. You can learn more from Media Access Australia.
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