Sunday, June 26, 2005

Oh so many updates and ho so little money

There is a wierd sort of product cycle in the AT Industry. Products are rumored at the ATIA convention around January. Then demonstrated in raw form at CSUN. And if they survive all of the hype and R&D they show up at the National Federation of the Blind or American Council of the Blind conventions. But some products, if your really unlucky, update themselves around all three.

This month will or has already seen updates from Ai Squared and Freedom Scientific. Ai Squared has released the public Beta of Zoom Text 9. And just recently they updated that Beta to Yeah I know build numbers get confusing. And that is even more so with ZT. Anyway, I have been using ZT9 since Alpha 3 back in March. I have to say that I am really happy with what I have seen so far in this new version. I have tossed out my other versions, good bye 7.11 you have served me well, in favor of using 9 full time. The main reason for this comes from the Mozilla support found in 9. It's not perfect but it's the only thing out there supporting the alternative browser scene. Expect the full real product to become available somewhere between now and August 31st. Or Ai Squared will have to buy me a new calendar as they say it's set for release this summer.

Freedom on the other hand is releasing their updates now. Or have been really. JAWS 6 came on the scene in Dec 04. Then it saw an update to 6.1 in March. Now 6.2 has arrived on June 24th in support of Pac Mate 3.0. Pac Mate and JAWS work together to provide compatibility for those who wish to use the Pac Mate as a mini laptop/PDA. The new updates use a remote desktop like interface that will allow you to connect to your wireless network and control your JAWS enabled desktop computer. I know this sounds almost trivial to those sighted folks out there who don't use this stuff on a daily basis but for those of us who have been shut out of a lot of common areas of IT... this is a big deal. The 6.2 update is up now and it's around 42 MB. Pac Mate 3.0 is a paid upgrade, $115 bones if you don't have a SMA, and it should be up some time before Friday.

The goodness doesn't stop there folks. Humanware has a major announcement to make on the 27th. Both the Low Vision and Blindness divisions have product info hitting the street and I think it will be the talk of the town in Las Vegas and Louivalle on the 4th. I will post this interesting development later on in the week as we meet with Humanware in our quarterly meetings on the 29th.

Still more stuff to talk about as well. The new Optelec modular CCTVs are shipping. They have this Ikea like design in that you have one base unit with all sorts of Lego like parts that are fully swappable. Tired of your CRT monitor? Pull that bad boy off and stick on a LCD. Need line markers? Add this feature pack into the empty slot on your X/Y table and your there. It's really a great concept for those who start off small and need more from their CCTV later on down the road. Just buy the parts you need and keep the base X/Y table. Now if they can only come up with Apple color schemes! Naa..

Enhanced Vision also has a new Merlin Flat Pannel unit. It uses the latest 8 millisecond LCD tech which allows it to smear or tear magnified text less than current models. The thing you have with LCD screens is that your taking a live analog feed of the materials being magnified and then your converting it to digital for the monitor. It just can't keep up with fast moving text and so you get this Etchosketch effect. The Merlin does this to a far lesser degree and it also lets you move the monitor up, down, left and right. It's part of the Merlin Plus family and you can see it on Enhanced Vision's front page.

We have a lot of the new products I mentioned here in our labs. Expect hands on reports over the next month or so as we put them to the test.

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