Braille Monitor                          October 2019

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Exhibitors’ Showcase Review

by Jessica McLeod and Mark Jones

From the Editor: Each year the Braille Monitor sends a note to all divisions, committees, and groups that are a part of our national body. The request is simple and straightforward: tell us what you’ve done over the last year, and/or tell us what you did at the convention. Mark Jones and his colleague always come through, and the showcase he writes about is a tremendous benefit to our exhibitors and members. Here is what Mark and Jessica tell us about the showcase:

On Sunday, July 7, 2019, the Exhibitors’ Showcase took place at the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Nearly thirty presentations were made before the standing-room-only crowd introducing new gadgets and software to the eager audience. Here are a few of the highlights from those presentations:

WayAround enables your iPhone or Android phone through a free app to identify tags that you can place on anything from CDs to canned foods to clothing. Representatives from HIMS spoke about its Google-certified notetaker, the Polaris, and the recently released QBraille, a forty-cell Braille display with a combination of a Perkins-style keyboard and the special keys found on the QWERTY keyboard. Having these extra keys on a Braille display eliminates the need to memorize complex Braille key equivalents. HIMS also has released a Braille instructional system for young readers called LeapFrog for the blind.

HumanWare representatives spoke about its new BrailleNote Touch Plus that uses a newer android platform and faster hardware. They said it would be much faster than the BrailleNote Touch. They also spoke of new things coming to the Victor Trek and its new Reveal 16 video magnifier.

Duxbury Systems is now entering their forty-fourth year of doing Braille translation software. Its newest version, 12.5, has many new features for the Braille embosser. Its PerkyDuck freeware also turns your computer into a Perkins Braille writer. Duxbury is now handling a larger number of Braille math files as well.

If you are looking for a very simple-to-use phone, BlindShell claims to have the most accessible phone for the blind. It features a full keypad with buttons and is fully vocalized with many smart phone features plus high contrast icons and large print for those with low vision. For Federationists who use Sprint, the company has developed special phone plans with great phone prices for NFB members.

Representatives from Vispero, formerly Freedom Scientific, told us about its fifth generation Focus Blue Braille display and its newly released ElBraille 40. They also spoke about new features in JAWS and ZoomText.

Amazon representatives spoke about its new accessible Fire TVs and its new speakers including the Echo and Alexa. It has improved verbosity features, new rapid shortcuts, and has improved its book reading voices. There is also a new Alexa-enabled microwave.

Microsoft representatives talked about new features in its screen reader Narrator and about its Disability Answer Desk, which will answer questions for you for free anytime. There is also Be My Eyes Support and monthly webinars.

Representatives from the American Printing House for the Blind talked about its new product Code Jumper, which takes computer coding and puts it into sound and moving objects. It also has a new fourteen-cell Braille display called the Braille Trail LE. Additionally there is the new BrailleBuzz, a toy that teaches phonics, keyboard positioning, and more for the new Braille reader. There is also the new Color-Star that can not only identify colors but can tell you the color of LED lights.

In the area of wearable tech, eSight eyewear has electronic glasses for those with low vision that can detect changing colors, has built in OCR, can store PDF files, and can drastically increase the size of things that you are looking at. A personal coach will help you learn to use your glasses which they say is like a wearable CCTV. OrCam talked about its tiny wearable assistive technology device, the OrCam MyEye which now has facial recognition for both recognizable and nonrecognizable features. Sunu has a device that you wear like a watch that can detect nearby objects and vibrate to let you know where nearby obstructions may be when using your cane.

A T Guys is in its tenth year at the convention. This year representatives demonstrated a new waterproof Bluetooth speaker and a pluggable, foldable Bluetooth keyboard that will connect to your phone. Its AfterShokz headphones keep getting better. It also has Micro-speak talking voice recorders. Another new product from them is a $10 USB sound card to make sure your speech synthesizer and music don't come through the same speaker.

Independent Science representatives told about its new LabQuest 2 that enables a student to stick in their probes at the lab and test things like everyone else. With its Logger Pro product you can now print out your own graphs. Now the blind can do their own lab work.

Envision Inc. has a podcast on using Uber with a guide dog. It also has a telephone and email service that hires the blind to work the phones and teach folks to use its AfterShokz and accessible microwaves.

Representatives from Bookshare said that it now has over 700,000 titles to choose from and has audio in highlighted text. Now you can get more out of your iPhone with the new Rivo 2, a keypad that connects through Bluetooth and makes voicemail, phone banking, and Google assistant easier to use.

The National Braille Press has been around ninety-two years developing Braille books, from print-Braille children’s books to cookbooks and how-to books for technology written by blind authors. New this year are Drop into Dropbox and Dating in the Digital Age. The National Braille Press is always looking for new ideas of things to Braille.

The San Francisco LightHouse provides tactile maps for your address anywhere in North America so you can really feel your surroundings.

Curtis Chong told us about the new Eltrinex digital talking recorder. It produces stereo recordings and can copy files to a computer. With the Eltrinex V12 Pro, you can also plug in an external mike or use line-in.  

Representatives from Global Initiative Accessibility came to the convention to educate, advocate, promote, and enforce accessibility rights to websites. It will report accessibility issues to attorneys so that cases can be filed as soon as possible.

Finally we heard from Bristol Braille Technology representatives and got to have hands-on reviews by our audience of the new Canute 360-cell, nine-line Braille display which can read a third of a Braille page. Just put in a memory stick with a file on it and read your file like a Braille printer would. It will be a big help with math and music. When released, it should be priced at around $2,000 according to its distributor.

We would like to thank all who attended. Hopefully they learned a lot and were able to go into the exhibit hall informed and ready to ask more detailed questions of the vendors there.

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