Sunday, July 05, 2009

Detroit 2009 Day 2: Walking Through The ricochet Exhibit Hall

This is just my opinion but man is this layout confusing. And the setting is really dark. And they put the Independence Store, the Braille Literacy and the Assistive Technology all in one big echodrome. The inner isles are hard to navigate when four people decide to just stop and do nothing. They aren’t listening to a demo, they aren’t talking and they all brought half their houses with them in rollaway cases that would make a giant tortoise jealous. Even the Dog Guides look confused on deciding on a path to lead through this mass of individuals who just seem to exist to occupy space for all that I can tell. Geez.. Despite all that, I did see some interesting stuff and here is a small run down of my first trip through the eye of the needle.

ABISee: I saw the new Eye Pal Solo in person. It is the same chassis, for the most part, of the Eye Pal with an ability to use the Solo without connecting it to a computer. It stores up to 6 pages at a time and it is geared towards older and very young users. It is still quite mobile but it may not be what you are looking for if you want a lot of functionality with your OCR needs.

Duxbury: I grabbed a demo disc of 10.7. There is a free utility on the disc I need to check out later. But 11.1 is on the way later in the year or early next. 10.7 will mostly run in Windows 7, however like most companies, better support is coming in the next release. Still the engineering teams are hard at work on it and it looks like embossing is safe for Dux users in Win 7.

G.W. Micro: I’m so happy for the gang in FT. Wayne. They were rarely not busy with parts of the day having people in rows four persons deep. The Voice and Braille Sense had their fans in force. But the star of the show was the Book Sense. People walked right up, dropped cash on the table and walked away happy. I’ve not seen that in AT in a while. Looks like we may have competition in the Talking MP3 market for sure.

I also got a glance at a new Sense View hand held video magnifier. It improves on the already popular Sense View Classic and all the same features are on board this new prototype. The new unit sports a larger and brighter display over the Classic unit. The form factor is still small and the contrast in false colors appeared to be very good. No word officially on the name, date or final feature set. So we will need to see what happens there.

Ai Squared: The teams in Vermont are also busy themselves working on a new update to the 9.18 series. Expect to see that very soon. You can also expect to hear about a relaunch of a product as well before July is over. When the official PR goes live, I’ll post it here.

View Plus: I got a chance to feel the results of the new Tiger technology. The changes are minor but the effect is so subtle that it is deceptive at first touch. I like the new output of the Tiger and I got to say it is a nice revision to an already great line of products.

Freedom Scientific: I wasn’t sure about the Ruby. I thought it kind of heavy, bulky and a little unwieldy. I was putting those first impressions to rest after some time with it however. The false color contrast is good. The unit even keeps a bright image when tilted slightly in the collapsed handle position. The camera is in the center making page navigation easier for first time users of Video Magnifiers. The unit is also well balanced when the handle is extended. This is crucial because you don’t want your arm to get tired before you read an entire page. I admit I came away impressed with my first looks at the Ruby.

I also got my hands on the Focus Blue prototype. The weight is good and it falls right in there with the other Bluetooth enabled Braille Displays. Responsiveness was speedy and clear. The unit I saw was on a machine running JAWS 11 and Windows 7. Again, and I know this sounds strange, I have to hand it to the AT companies like Freedom Scientific for having products in the pipeline and ready to go for Windows 7 this October. If you are a PAC Mate fan and you are thinking about going to a Netbook then check out the new Focus as it may fit the bill for portable Braille access.

Humanware: What if I told you that there was a new AT product that smashed the concepts of digital convergence in a way that is exciting and confusing all at the same time? Well my friends that product is here and it is called the Versa Plus. Now you can have a small hand held Video Magnifier that records meetings, plays audio files, plays video files and oh yeah lets you read stuff somewhere in all that too. I’m so torn on the Versa Plus. On one hand it is neat to see all this functionality in a hand held device. On the other, navigation of the features isn’t all that intuitive and it may be a Jack of all trades/Master of none dilemma for some. And I haven’t even got to the part where we hook this thing up to the computer for importing and exporting files yet. Remember when a cell phone was used to make calls and a CCTV was used to read stuff? Dude I’m getting either too old for tech or I’ve lost the spark in seeing the silver lining. In either case I seriously honestly say you need to spend time with this device before you decide to purchase it. The learning curve can be steep for those who may just be looking for a spot reading device. And if that is the case Humanware has the lower costing Versa, without all the media features, that might fit the bill nicely.

Optelec: Speaking of Video Magnifiers with tons of confusing controls and features.. I saw the Far View. I like the distance camera as it gives the Sense View Duo some competition in that hand held Video Magnifier arena. I’m lost though in how the Far View works. There are more buttons on this thing than a common cell phone. I was afraid of hitting something when I looked at things further away. Very busy controls on the outside, however, the inside menus aren’t much better. Many companies with these on screen menus do not let you adjust color, font size or other options to make things less complex when you go to customize your unit’s settings. This is the case with the Far View. It is a good first generation device but man would I like to pass some notes on a hardware refresh.

I’ll be posting more on my exploits on bruised feet from being squashed by someone who must be living out of their rollaway case instead of getting a hotel room like a normal person later on this week.

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