Dolphin begins the first of what will likely be many announcements this week at CSUN by unveiling SuperNova 15.03. One of the biggest highlights of this release is a feature called "connect and View". This feature allows a user to connect any HD camera to their laptop or tablet which will then magnify whatever is in view of the camera. It is also possible, with this feature, to connect to a whiteboard or another computer so that, for example, if someone is presenting, the user of Supernova can view what's on the screen right on their laptop or tablet. The user can also customize color schemes and the type of magnification that best suits their needs.
Apple made several major and minor announcements Monday during their latest keynote address. To catch you up with the latest happenings, here's a brief overview.
It's important to note that this is just a brief summary of the software and hardware announced. There are links to each of the topics covered below where you will find more detailed information.
After being discussed for several years, the National Braille Press's B2G Android-based notetaker is now available for sale. The unit features 20 cells of 8-dot braille, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal memory, an SD card slot, 802.11G wireless, Bluetooth, and support for an optional phone card for cellular connectivity.
Along with the usual suspects showing off their braille-related technology, there will be a lot of new-comers to the market releasing new products. As I reported previously, a new notetaker running Android will be showcased at CSUN. However, it's not the only new device that will be demonstrated this time around. The National Braille Press has just anounced availability of the long awaited B2G for $2,495.
It's also worth noting the speculation that Humanware may be releasing another notetaker. They began teasing a new product that will debut at CSUN, as J.J reported on March 2. Continuing with the expected releases, we have the development of the Transforming Braille Group. in 2014, the American Printing House for the Blind reported that this device would launch at the 2016 CSUN conference as well. While there is no official word of this being the case, the Transforming Braille Group indicated that the device entered field testing in December on their blog.
CSUN atendees who are more intrested in what lies further ahead in the braille technology market will have some stuff to check out as well. Dot inCorperated will be showing off a 4 cell smart braille watch which is designed for use with a smart phone. For a list of exhibotors who have braill listed somewhere in their description, check out this link
Along with mBraille there is now a new app on the Google Play store which allows Android users to input braille with their touch screens. Soft Braille Keyboard is a $16.57 app now available in the Google Play Store which offers uncontracted and contracted braille input in both US and UEB. Once installed, the app shows up as a standard Android keyboard and is useable wherever text input is an option. There are 2 lay-out modes available, one which is more suitable to phones running Android that is vertical, and also a horizontal lay-out for tablets. There are many braille tables already available, including English, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Italian, Polish, Spanish,
Swedish and Vietnamese. The developer has indicated in the link above that more tables will be added soon. Instructions on using the app can also be found in this link. Have you used this app? How are you finding it works for you? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Yesterday, we posted a story about NeoBraille, a new Android-based braille notetaker which will debut at CSUN. The company behind the product is a relative unknown in the United States, so we took some time to learn a bit more about them.
NeoAccess, one of the exhibitors planning to show off their technology at the CSUN conference next week is debuting a product called the NeoBraille Notetaker. According to this blog from Irie-AT, the company who will be the U.S. distributor, the device will have a 2.1 GHZ processor, run on Android, and will also offer some sort of auto-scrolling feature. The post goes on to state that the NeoBraille will include many other apps that traditional notetaker does not have. Among the new features are built-in LTE, and ways to interact with braille cells to do things such as edit and copy text.
The unit will include a 32-cell braille display, 3GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a MicroSD slot, Mini HDMI port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 USB 3.0 port, and stereo speakers.
The notetaker is listed on Irie-AT's online store for $4,995 plus shipping. Stay tuned for further details from the BlindBargains crew who will be attending CSUN.
It's a week before CSUN 2016 and that means more teasers about possible new products. Enabling Technologies, who released two new braille embossers under the names Cyclone and Trident in 2014, sent out and Email teasing the possible return of the Juliet, the name behind their former line of embossing units.
It's still several months until Google releases the next version of the Android operating system, but we are already learning some details about future accessibility improvements and changes. According to the Android N for Developers site, Android N, as it is now being called, will include vision settings on the device's welcome screen. Previously, users could activate Talkback by performing a two-finger gesture on this screen, but there was no way to enable other features including magnification support and font sizes. We are unsure if a gesture or shortcut is also available for these additional features.
Rosen Hotels and Resorts, which has been hosting the National Federation of the Blind Convention for the past 3 years, has reported a major security breach that has compromised guest's credit card information. In it's rather lengthy statement, Rosen Hotels and Resorts said that they began receiving complaints in early February from guests who claimed there were unauthorized charges on their credit cards after staying in one of the company's hotels. The chain's statement went on to say: "Findings from the investigation show that an unauthorized person installed malware in RH&R s payment card network that searched for data read from the magnetic stripe of payment cards as it was routed through the affected systems. In some instances the malware identified payment card data that included cardholder name, card number, expiration date, and internal verification code. In other instances the malware only found payment card data that did not include cardholder name. No other customer information was involved. Cards used at RH&R between September 2, 2014 and February 18, 2016 may have been affected.
This may affect payments that were accepted in person, including those made during the 2015 NFB convention, but not credit card information given over the phone. The company says that customers should immediately report any unauthorized use of their cards to the credit card issuer. While Rosen Hotels and Resorts will not refund fraudulent charges, they are offering free credit reports to effected customers. If you think you were impacted by this breach, and need further assistance, the company has also set up a help line which you can reach by calling 855-907-3214. If you have been ffected by this breach, let us know in the comments.
Freedom Scientific has released an update to JAWS 17, named version 17.0.1539. It includes fixes for braille, Adobe Acrobat, JAWS itself, Firefox, Microsoft Office, the Windows 10 operating system, and Thunderbird. This update also adds the notification of when a new episode of FSCast, Freedom Scientific's podcast, has been posted. It's a free update for JAWS 17 users, which can be installed from within the JAWS Help menu. Follow the source link below to learn more about the specific changes.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People has announced that the ONKYO braille essay contest is now open for entries. Contest entries can range from fact to fiction to poetry, as long as they are on the subject of braille and its impact on your life. Prizes range from $500 to $2000, so your story could be worth a lot of money! This part of the contest is only open to the UK, and entries are due by May 10. Please see the above link for contest rules and and entry form which must be filled out and returned with your contest submission.
In past years, the NFB has administered and collected applications for North America, but there are no indications as to whether they will do so again this summer. Stay tuned for further updates.
Swedish Research and Development Institute KCH Teams up with Wikipedia to Develop Free Text to Speech Engine
KTH, a Swedish based research institute, announced that it is working with Wikipedia to develop a crowd sourced speech synthesis platform which will be used on the Wikipedia website. While this text to speech engine will be developed to work optimally with Wikipedia, it will be open source, and expected to work with any website developed that uses the Wikimedia software. Open source means that anyone is able to freely develop plug-ins which work with other languages, or even screen readers.
3 languages will be supported from the start, English, Swedish, and basic Arabic. It is projected to be ready for launch in September of next year.
On Blind Bargains Qast 54, Liam stopped by and the gang discussed the Echo. One of the topics covered was the ability to give Alexa "skills". Think of them as small apps that perform specific tasks for you. Listen to the episode to learn more. The source Link is to a very lengthy list of the possible skills you can give Alexa. While this list was posted on March 2, several skills have been released since, including the Capitol One Skill, as reported by Mashable. Though the Echo app also lists skills, particularly for those who may be interested in the Echo, this list can be helpful. You can also check out the What's new page to keep up with the latest echo-related happenings.
uber has a non-life threatening emergency number that passengers can call. 800-353-8237 (800-353-uber), is
being represented as a non-emergency number where customers and drivers can get in touch with a live person if they
encounter an urgent situation. The number is only available in 22 cities in the US, though which exact cities
those are remains unclear. Anyone calling that number will be routed to one of the 2 call centers in Phoenix or Chicago. According to this article, Uber has stressed that this is not a replacement for 911, nor is it for simple issues like fair adjustments. The example listed in the article above is of someone forgetting medication in a car that they rely on, like insulin. To find out whether the number is supported in your city, open the Uber app and go to the account menu, and it will be listed under the "help" options. Even if it's not supported in your city, you can still call the number directly and be connected to a human being, even though you cannot do so from the app itself.
En-Vision America has quietly posted information about their 6th generation portable bar code solution to their website. The I.D. Mate Galaxy replaces the Quest and still will recognize bar codes on millions of items. This new version features a wand-like design for the reader which some have compared to the I.D. mate II from the early 2000's. The MP3 player and Wi-Fi support remains, though the camera, which saw limited use with the Quest, has been removed. Skype support, which was originally included with the Quest, was disabled in a previous update. It's listed on their store page for $1,295 though it is currently shown as out of stock. Their Galaxy product page includes brochures and user guides for the forthcoming device. We'll try to learn more about this one at CSUN 2016. Thanks to Bryan Smart for the tip.
As part of its effort to collect feedback regarding accessibility, Microsoft has posted an online survey which aims to collect more information about accessibility in their products. Users can suggest a new feature or how to improve a Microsoft product, report an issue with an existing Microsoft product, or share a story about how a Microsoft product has helped someone. SO if you ever wanted to give Microsoft suggestions on how to make their software and hardware more usable, this is your opportunity.
This is just the latest in Microsoft's efforts to be more inclusive of people with disabilities. 2015 saw the start of these changes, with more improvements outlined moving forward. A summary of changes and plans can be found in this blog post.
James Scholes has released version 2.1 of Codex, a Windows software tool which helps in reading protected ebooks such as those purchased on the Amazon Kindle. This version includes several new tools to make it easier for Kindle book owners to find and convert their titles, regardless of location. Several new configuration options have also been included.
Kindle books come with digital rights management which fight against piracy, but also make it more difficult to read titles using the software of your choice. Codex removes this protection from legally-purchased titles, meaning you can use standard programs or a portable book player to read your collection. Legally speaking, this is possible because of a Library of Congress exemption which allows the altering of files to enable access for people who are blind or visually impaired. Codex is free, though people who donate will receive access to beta versions of the software. Follow the link on this post to learn more about the changes or to download the latest version.
AI Squared has released another bug fix release for Window-Eyes, focused on stability improvements. The company is continuing the process of improving cross-compatibility between ZoomText and Window-Eyes, especially for its recently released Fusion product which includes both screen reading and magnification features. Version 9.4 also includes improved support for the latest versions of Java and updated Hims braille display drivers. Get the update now from the AI Squared website or by using the Check for Updates feature from the help menu. The 9.4 announcement is below.
American Printing House for the Blind Releases new Utility to Convert Documents in to UEB Digital Braille
The American Printing House for the Blind has released a free tool which allows for the conversion of files in to digital braille format. The utility, called Send to Braille, is available for Windows, and allows for the conversion of files from Microsoft Word (both doc and DOCX), Rich Text format (RTF), and plane text (txt), in to the BRL format. By default, the conversion will be in to the UEB braille code, but there are instructions on how to change this on the Send to Braille utility page.
Installation was very simple, and the Send to Braille option then appeared in my Send To menu as "braille". In my brief testing, the utility was able to convert files very rapidly, with a 500 KB RTF file taking less than 10 seconds. No formatting other than paragraphs were preserved, but headings appeared on their own lines.
At the bottom of the Send to Braille page, APH encourages the development of other such utilities for other platforms, which could mean that they will not be developing such a utility for Linux or Mac. Further information about this utility, step by step instructions on using it, and more about Send to Braile can be found through the link above.
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