Many of you may recall the VFO Group, then known only as Freedom Scientific, announcing the ElBraille just prior to last year's CSUN conference. This year, ElBraille is back with some upgraded specs and now seems destined for release.
To recap for those who missed the original announcement, here's a basic description from the last time around, which has not really changed.
The components are housed on one part of the device, while a Focus 14 makes up the other part. The Focus can be disconnected from the rest of the device, so if you wish to take your Focus 14 and not the full version of the ElBraille somewhere for some reason, that is also an option. The ElBraille has a full 32-bit version of Windows 10 on it along with JAWS.
The device measures 7.4x4.7x1.5 inches. With the Focus 14 attached, the entire package weighs 1.65 pounds. On the front, you have the Focus 14. As such, all of the controls that you will find on the Focus 14 make up the front of the device. ON the right side of the unit, you have 1 button which allows you to detach the Focus 14 from the ElBraille. Continuing along the right side, you have the headphone jack, an SD card slot, USB port, and the power button. The back and left sides of the ElBraille do not contain any buttons, ports, or controls. On top of the ElBraille, behind the Perkins style keyboard of the Focus you have 6 buttons: E1, E2, volume down, volume up, E3, and E4. The top of the unit also contains speakers, a Braille label, and a micro SIM card for cellular connectivity in the upper left corner of the surface of the device. For more details about the original ElBraille, please see the link above.
It's now 2017, and the U.S. has still not seen the ElBraille for sale. However, there is now going to be an updated version of the device, which will be shown at CSUN this year. Adi Kushnir appeared in Blind Bargains Qast 92 to discuss the new ElBraille. From a hardware perspective, there are a few changes. The processor remains a 1.8 GHZ quad-core processor, the ram remains at 2 GB, it will still contain an SD card reader, internal SD card, stereo speakers, a USB port, a vibration motor, internal GPS, accelerometer, , and a headphone jack. What has been upgraded is the Bluetooth, now running 4.2, the SSD which is now able to store 160 GB, of data, and the cellular connectivity, which is now a 4G LTE modem compatible with CDMA and GSM carriers.
Adi also announced that there will be a Focus 40 version of the device called the ElBraille 40, but that this will likely require the user to send their existing Focus 40 to be serviced, as the bottom of the display is replaced with the internals of the ElBraille. This means that the Focus 40 Blue will not be easily detachable for use independent of the ElBraille. Adi guessed that the form factor of the Focus 40 model is about the same size as the first generation Focus 40 Blue. By the way, the first generation Focus 40 blue, or the second generation of the Focus 40, will not be supported with ElBraille. The 40 cell model has a bigger battery and also 8 function keys instead of 6. Other than that, the hardware specifications are the same.
Software wise, the ElBraille does contain the aforementioned Windows 10, Bluetooth mode on the ElBraille 40 for connecting to external devices, and a small suite of internal applications including a Word Processor, File Manager, and perhaps a few others. At the moment, the developers are working on a way to handle BRF and BRL files correctly and to also support specialized library services. Adi indicated that the ElBraille will come with FS Reader, which means it will have support for DAISY content.
The pricing remains as much of a mystery as it was this time a year ago. Just like before, the amount a user would pay would depend on the parts they need. For example, if you already have a JAWS licence and a Focus display, you would only need to purchase the docking station of the ElBraille. You can find out more information about the device, along with a Quick Start guide on ElBraille's home page. Also, if you would like to consume the actual audio interview hosted by JJ, see the source link which is to the audio of episode 92.Source: BlindBargains Qast 92
So does this mean with the ElBraille, I can call/text others using the celular connectivity? While I realize that these note-takers aren't really designed to do that directly, it would be awesome if I could text others using a stand alone device. Also, seeing that it is using windows 10, does this mean I can install third party applications to the unit?
J.J. Tuesday, 07-Mar-2017 3:37 PM ET:
It's a Windows 10 machine, so you can install whatever you want. So along those same lines, I guess you could find a way to make phone calls with some sort of app if it is out there, though Skype/Hangouts may be more feasible.
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