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iA Cast iA Cast Weekly

#iACast 85 – Pre-NFB18 Talk

On this episode of the #iACast, Aleeha, Michael, Anna, Lauren, Scott and Chelsea discuss pre-NFB convention activities as well as your weekly dose of technology topics.

The news this week was full of merger talks and Windows 10 Insider news updates. They discussed the AT&T and Time Warner merger, Comcast and 21st Century Fox merger plans and the changes announced in the new build of Windows that came out this week. Aira has also announced the shipment of their Horizon glasses. If you are one of the lucky 200 people to get them then be on the lookout for them to arrive soon!

This week’s show is brought to you by the iAccessibility App

The top picks this week included QuentonC’s PalyRoom which was picked by Aleeha, PocketBraille from Anna, Wunderlist which was picked by Chelsea, Credit Karma which was picked by Scott, The weather channel from Lauren, and Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12 beta from Michael.

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Products Report

PocketBraille for Android Now Live!

PocketBraille for iOS has provided teachers and students the ability to learn Braille characters in a quick and easy reference style application for several years.

iAccessibility is proud to announce that PocketBraille is now live on Android in the Google Play Store for $1.99, and we even have a lite version so you can see if you like the app.

We are also in the process of adding grade 2 contractions to both apps so please stay tuned for that update as it will open new doors for teachers and students learning Braille.

Google Play Badge

 

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iA Cast

#iACast 69: HomePod and Importance of Braille

In this episode, Aleeha Jason, Matt, and Michael discuss the latest news concerning the Apple HomePod, and the importance of learning Braille to improve literacy skills and to support the use of technology.

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iA Cast

#iACast Interview with APH at #NFB17

On this episode of the iACast, Michael interviews Heather from the American Printing House for the Blind. The interview mainly discusses the new product from Orbit Research, the Orbit Reader 20.

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iA Cast iA DemoCast

#iACast DemoCast 10 – Orbit Reader 20

On this episode of the iA DemoCast, Rich Cavallaro looks at the new Orbit Reader 20 from APH and the Orbit Research group. Rich demonstrates the device, and goes through the menu structure and you can also hear how the device sounds while in use.

APH — Orbit Reader 20

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The Brailliant 14: Increasing Productivity in A Small Package

A 14-cell braille display is not new. We have seen these before with devices such as the Focus 14 Blue from VFO group and the Smart Beetle from HIMS.

HumanWare, makers of the popular Brailliant braille displays that come in 32, 40 and 80 cells, have announced a smaller model of the display called the Brailliant 14.

Hardware and Features

This device contains the following hardware specifications. There is an 8-dot braille keyboard and a 14-cell braille display. Across the front of the display, there are the four HumanWare signature thumb keys found on all of their other Braille products.

One unique feature of this display is that there is a touch strip above the braille cells rather than physical cursor routing buttons. To use this touch strip, you simply slide your finger above the braille cell that you want to move your cursor to, and the cursor will be moved to that position in your document.

The display also has the ability to connect 5 Bluetooth devices and 1USB  device via its micro USB port. That, again, is something we have seen in other products like the Baum VarioUltra and the HIMS Smart Beetle.

Here is where this device differs. The display features a built-in editor that one can take notes in without being connected to any device. Then, when you pair your iOS device back to this display, if you have the brailliant sync app set up, all notes that you take on the brailliant will go back into iOS and your Gmail account.

This is, on the surface, an interesting concept. With this feature, one can take notes in a meeting and not have to worry about Bluetooth or Apple’s translation issues. After your notes are synchronized back to your Gmail account, one can  access them on any number of mainstream devices. With a 15 to 20-hour battery life, taking notes for an extended period is now a snap.  A user wouldn’t have to worry about suffering battery issues on the display or on the iOS device, since Bluetooth would not be a factor.

The Future Of Braille

We are entering into interesting times as far as Braille. We not only have this product coming out, but we have the new Orbit Reader 20 produced by the Transforming Braille Group, which will be below $500.00, not to mention a new 16 cell option coming out from Handy Tech, the Actilino, which  will be distributed in the US by Triumph Technology.

The market as far as braille displays is getting very competitive, starting as low as under $500.00. It will be interesting to see this new HumanWare display and how it will fare in the market. I plan to attend the 2017 NFB convention, and I am sure I will get to check out this display and have some hands on with this product.

At this point, no pricing or a release date has been set for this product. To learn more, see the link below, which will take you to the HumanWare web page for more information.

the Brailliant 14

Update:

We want to thank Stuart Lawler (@StuartLawler) on Twitter for correcting one slight error in the above post.  The touch strip that is featured on the Brailliant also can be found on the

BraillePen Touch produced by Harpo.

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Talking Typer by APH Now Available for iOS

Talking Typer by the American Printing House for the Blind has now been released for iOS. If you are familiar with the Windows version then you will find it easy to learn the keyboard with the mobile app. Talking Typer offers training for the on screen keyboard, a Bluetooth keyboard, and even for use with Braille displays.

Talking Typer is $4.99 in the iOS App Store, and we will have a review of Talking typer up on the next episode of the iA Cast

Talking Typer on the iOS App Store

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Tactile Will Translate Text to Refreshable Braille

If you listen to the IA cast, you’ll probably remember me mentioning something about a device called Tactile. But what is it, and why am I excited about it? Read on to find out.

What Is Tactile?

Tactile is a device in development by six MIT students. Chandani Doshi, Jialin Shi, Bonnie Wang, Charlene Xia, Tania Yu, and Grace Li. The idea is that Tactile, by way of a camera, will translate print into braille. It will be about the size of a Candy bar, have thirty-six cells, and they hope to have it cost around one-hundred dollars.

Here’s How it Would Work.

You’d slide the device over printed text, such as that found on a book, a restaurant menu, or a packaging label, etc. The camera captures images of the words and sends them to a micro controller. Then, text recognition is performed. The information from the images taken by the camera, would cause the pins in the display to move via an “electromagnetic activation mechanism.” Just like other Braille displays, the Braille characters would refresh as you scroll or pan through sections of text.

The Effect on the Assistive Technology Field.

I think the idea of Tactile is really exciting, both for real reasons, as well as my own ideas. Let’s start with actual reasons. As all of us are aware, buying a Braille Display isn’t exactly cheep. While that’s starting to change with displays like the Orbit Reader 20, the projected price point of Tactile is even lower, and it would give you the ability to read print. Unlike apps like KNFB Reader, which I love by the way, Tactile would be a dedicated device, that can give you more than KNFB Reader can on it’s own. Braille, and for about the same price. I can see Tactile starting, or helping push forward, a lower cost Braille display revolution, which would not only give us more affordable options, but start manufacturers competing on a more unique feature set. This could only be a good thing for us as consumers. This brings me to my ideas. Keep in mind that I don’t really have evidence to support them, and they are my own. So I’ve talked about Tactile translating print into Braille. That, we know. But I’d like to see it become a Full fledged braille display, with USB and Bluetooth support in the future. I’d like to see it have support for screen readers across all platforms so that anyone using Narrator, NVDA, JAWS, or any other screen reader and windows, could have access to affordable Braille. The same would be true for VoiceOver users on the Mac and Apple’s other iDevices, Android users, people who use Orca in Linux, and any other screen reader and OS combo I’ve not mentioned here. Having cursor routing buttons and a braille keyboard for input would be amazing as well. But Even as it is, I can see Tactile starting a trend the Braille display market hasn’t seen in thirty years.

Want To Learn More?

You can find out some great information about Tactile and the team behind it by checking out this Mashable article. You can also check out a great Podcast from Cool Blind Tech where they’re interviewing Charlene Xia.

Conclusion

I wish Team Tactile the best of luck in bringing there device to market. But even if it doesn’t happen, the idea is still out there, and they’ve already proven that it’s possible. What do you think? Let us know on FaceBook, Twitter, and everywhere else you can find us around the web.

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#CSUNATC17 – Dot Incorporated Makes a Braille Smart Watch For The Blind.

There were many companies showing products this year at the CSUN Assistive Technology conference this year, and one of those companies was Dot Incorporated. DOT makes a Braille smart watch that is similar to a standard braille display with four braille characters only to let someone tell time and much more.

Features

The Dot smart watch is a light Braille smart watch with four refreshable braille cells. It shows the time with these cells, so you would feel something like 1230 instead of 12:30. The watch also allows for pairing with your smartphone over bluetooth to receive push notifications and other smartphone features that you would expect on a smart watch. The Dot watch will even vibrate your wrist when you receive a push notification on your phone. One of the things I liked about the watch is that it is very light weight, and the leather band is comfortable to wear. It also appears that the watch charges with a magnetic charger that attaches to the bottom of the watch.

issues

I have a few issues with this product though and while they are not huge issues they are things that people need to be aware of. The Dot watch has an orange crown. I think the watch looks very nice until you see that orange color on the crown. I personally don’t think it goes well with the aesthetics of the watch. Also, While I think the Dot watch has great features, it does not have any fitness possibilities which puts it below other mainstream watches like the Apple Watch which are at the same price point of around $300.

Conclusion

While there are some issues with this watch, I feel that it is a good start in offering a Braille smart watch to blind and low vision users. The Dot Smart Watch is still not shipping yet, but you can pre-order it for $300 from their website at Dot Incorporated.

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iA Cast iA Cast Weekly

#iACast 34 – iA DemoCast 2: The Braille Challenge

Last year we released the Braille Challenge skill to the Alexa Skills Store. Join Michael as he demonstrates the use of this skill in this episode of the iA DemoCast.

You can find the Braille challenge at the following link.
The Braille Challenge – Alexa Skills Store

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What I Like About VarioUltra

Are you looking for a Braille display that is lightweight, portable and easy to use? The VarioUltra from BAUM might be what you are looking for. When I think of great Braille displays this one has to be on the top my list. It has many great features, including its own suite of productivity apps.

The display itself:

The VarioUltra is a vary lightweight display. The VarioUltra 20 weighs half a pound and the VarioUltra 40 weighs 1 pound. The keys are shaped in an ergonomic 8-dot keyboard. The keys are curve in such a way so that you can type for hours with no problems. You don’t have to worry about aggravating anyone with the keys because they are very quiet and easy to press.

Let’s talk about the Braille:

The Braille is some of the best I’ve seen. It reminds me of something that has been recently Brailed. I use my VarioUltra on a daily basis and love the way the Braille feels.

Multiple connections:

The VarioUltra was the first Braille display that allows you the connect to five devices at once. You can connect the display to one USB device and four Bluetooth devices at once. What makes it even better is the fact that you can switch between all of your devices with a simple command.

Features:

Here is a brief list of the VarioUltra features:
• Suite of productivity apps, from word processor to PDF reader and more.
• high quality, brushed aluminum construction that looks and feels amazing.
• Crisp refreshable Braille cells that make reading Braille a breeze.

More info:

The VarioUltra 40, with 40 cells costs $3,995.00. While the VarioUltra 20 costs $2,395.00. If you would like to find out more about the VarioUltra, Website.

In closing:

I hope you now understand why I believe the VarioUltra is one of the best displays available. It has many great features including the ability to connect to five different devices, an impressive set of productivity apps, ergonomic keys and much more. I hope you will give the VarioUltra a chance to become your favorite display.