Monday, April 24, 2006

The Leaves Are Blooming And So Are Your CCTV Options.

Sorry about the lack of updates after CSUN. I have been traveling and I have a new project that may be due this summer. So it took some focus away from the Blog. Okay the Playstation is enough to steal my focus away.. and my new Robot Chicken Season 1 set.. a good meal. you know come to think of it there are some new flavors of Dibbs, crack in ice cream form, out there. Well stuff it here's some AT opinions.

Here’s a bit more from my loads of CSUN news. Yes.. I actually had more to say about that. Go figure. I am a verbose kind of guy.

The following are my opinions about a few of the many CCTV units out there. Remember that I am a low vision user and my views of these units are specific to my vision. Your mileage may vary. So if any of these units sound good to you I urge you to seek them out through your local distributor. And since viewing these devices is like eating ice cream you may find that you have to go through at least half of the 31 flavors out there to find the one that best fits your tastes. Also remember that I see a lot of these things, about 7 to 10 new models a year, and I admit to being very very jaded about some solutions to the eternal argument on what makes a good Video Magnifier/CCTV?Auto Reader/whatever the industry term is now a days.

With that said…

The Clarity Carrymate.

I recently spent some time looking at this unit from Clarity.

Like a lot of their products you find yourself loving it or disliking it intensely in just the first 10 minutes of use. Personally I am not a fan of this unit. Now that’s not to say it’s not a good display or that it isn’t easy to use. It’s just not my cup of tea.

I once owned an old style Travel Mate. So I am familiar with where the units have gained their evolutionary track from, however, there is not enough “new’ here to be interesting really. The unit is self contained. It is heavy beyond it’s listed 10 pounds. And it’s not something I would want to lug around from place to place if I have weight restrictions or conditions that make carrying this unit an issue for every day use.

The unit’s display is clear but the unit I saw was tended to give a not so clar auto focus when zooming in on glossy materials. Light is always a key aspect in this unit’s presentation. So external lighting choices may drastically affect the quality of image seen on the unit’s display.

Now here’s either a selling point or a major detraction. The unit’s frame is very solid. The type of solid that let’s you know you dropped 10 pounds of dead weight on your foot kind of solid. While the unit can be moved into various positions doing so may feel a bit more laborious because of the heavy duty style of the unit’s frame.

Bottom Line:
With options like Enhanced Vision’s Acrobat, and it’s fleet of accessories, it’s hard to recommend this to a general traveler who wants flexibility when traveling. A mid line CCTV may not have the ability to focus on materials from far away but it does fit nicely in the over head bins in airplanes. Now if you need a work out and your hell on equipment then seek this unit out by all means.

The Return Of The OPTi.

Years ago the Opti, I am sticking with the regular spelling thank you marketing gurus, was one of the only options out there for laptop enabled CCTV units. But like any new emerging sub category it had it’s problems. Driver support from limited memory video cards was wonky at best. Refresh rates of early LCD laptop monitors made viewing images difficult. In fact it was like watching a flipbook of crudely drawn letters in sandscript if you had a high amount of useable vision. And then the killer was that the unit just didn’t want to work with a laptop running Zoom Text. Just having it on your system rendered it inert. Not good for those with low vision who generally, at the time, universally used ZT on a daily basis. Even worse for a college I know of who loved that camera until they found out about the ZT issue.

Well after a short vacation of a few years the Opti is tanned, rested and back to take on the laptop Video magnifiers of the world. And it brought a two cousins.

One style has an arm that allows you to turn the unit’s camera in to almost any direction. The second has the camera mounted on a fixed arm which only allows you to move the camera up for distance viewing or downward to view documents. The third is the old mouse style camera which may be familiar to those who already have used a Liberty Solo or the new Fusion. And all, at this current date, still do not work well with systems that run Zoom Text. I know.. I asked one of the lead engineers at CSUN directly.

The units utilize software that enables you to take pictures of what your looking at for later use. Only a few formats are supported for now and the software it’s self seemed to be about as easy to naviage as the one found with Clarity’s laptop unit. The software was still in Beta so this could all change by the time the unit is released into production.

The feel of the units were solid and the mouse cam was easy to use. Laptop configurations were said not to be as restrictive as some others on the market, however, the quality of image is effected on any unit by the minimum requirements of any given laptop. USB 2.0, at least a 64 meg video card and a decent LCD monitor are your guidelines for all of these laptop units. But honestly a better system can’t hurt if your going to rely on these guys for general all purpose use.

The weight and the form factor was good. The heaviest unit I have found so far in this sub category is the Optelec Clear Note and the Opti was far less heavier than that. And a bit easier to move around as well. But in the Clear Note’s defense .. it comes in a really snazzy custom made bag.

Bottom Line: Wait and see. Just about everybody and their dog have a Laptop Solution coming. The key elements you want to look for are self contained battery, more than just USB video support and weight/setup time. Draining power off your laptop’s battery could be very uncool as you KNOW this little fact will bite you when you least expect it too of course. And remember your going to be carrying a laptop bag and this thing around. So moving to a more durable rolling case may just save you time at the chiropractor having your shoulders put back into place.

Magnilink X Reader

I have been using these devices for daily reading tasks since 1980. And at no time have I been in more debates about how good or how well or how fantastic or how bad a CCTV is until now. This unit’s opinion base was fractured into two camps and both tended to be very vocal about their likes and dislikes. First let’s look at the unit shall we..

I want to say that the X reader was one of the clearest images I have ever seen on a low vision electronic video magnifier.. period. It rarely showed a halo in false colors, it barely tore or smeared an image at rapid reading speeds and there is no denying that it is a marvel of Euro engineering that looked like it just fell out of the Ikea catalog.


Here’s what the detractors had to say about the unit. Several felt that the controls, especially the rocker stick to zoom in and out, would break off after long use. Others did not like the 3 colors offered [in both positive and negative by the way making a total of 6] and the knob used for color selection was also said to be inadequate. And this is the big E the lights under the unit are directed forward towards the user rather than down or away from the reader. Personally this was the only fault I found had merit. The unit is so open underneath that the glare from the lights on glossy materials will take your focus away from the unit’s display. Some may just say that I am traditional but honestly that light was bright folks and I wasn’t a big fan of squinting to see text in a negative image.

I spoke to the company at CSUN. And they were perplexed by our findings. The unit has sole well in Europe and they had never received this kind of feedback about it’s performance. I tossed it off to us being impolite typical Americans with their nasty Yank attitudes. No really I did. I wasn’t prepared at all for the rebuke about an opinion. So when in doubt rely on humor to get you out of a tight situation.

In response to our remarks the company is working on a few new accessories. One of which is a piece of cloth that can be held in place by magnets affixed to the unit it’s self. This cloth will block some of the glare I noted above from the reflected forward mounted light. Their solution is unique and stylish I will give you that. Now where did I put that furniture catalog at anyway. I need a functional office desk to put this thing on that doesn’t scream US Office Cubist Post Modernism.

We got in a Topaz last week. So expect some views on our test unit soon.

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