Thanks for that, Andrew; fortunately I am working; unfortunately, I couldn't
make it to SV.
Since I actually took time off to go to Sight this year - thought I would give you a small review for those who were not able to make it - here are some of the product highlights. Note I only went round a few sights, and these were mainly ones I had heard about before. Although Cobolt were showing some new products, I just couldn't get in without a major attack from dogs and people, so didn't bother.
I did, however, manage to get a quick look at the note detecter, which I found to be very small and compact. Unfortunately, however, I did think that it would take a bit of getting the note into the device, since it had to go in quite a long way into it. I had imagined something you could just pass the note through or put the note on in order for it to work. However, I can really see a target market for these devices, especially if you have a lot of notes you want sorting.
One of the companies I think we can see some good inivations coming in the next year or two is called Code Factory. They first came out with the Mobile Accessability package, which is still being sold today, which gives VI people using a series 60 phone a comfortable interface with which to perform specific key tasks. However, they have now got out a few more products, including Mobile Speak and Pocket Mobile Speak. These two products are screen readers, mobile speak being for series 60 and pocket mobile speak being for any pocket PDA. Mobile speak comes with some extra tools, and there are add-ons which can be purchased, which include a colour detector/light probe, as well as a product which allows you to use your PCs keyboard as a phone keyboard. They also have a user friendly installation system, but I didn't see this in operation. The Pocket PC version works with any PDA, as long as you have a bluetooth keyboard for input. A company called Optilec also do a bluetoo
th braille keyboard, which certainly works with the Mobile Speak product, but I didn't use it with the PDA product. I certainly think it's a good thing to have a good competition in this area, especially since Pocket Hal was the only PDA product which worked on a _standard_ PDA, and Talks was the only product you could get as a screen reader for a mobile phone.
Code Factory's site is at http://www.codefactory.es/.
I also looked at the new media system from Portset. Now those who remember the teletext systems they did and loved those will love this product. It is a talking audio described freeview receiver, which speaks the EPG facilities (including 7 day EPG) as well as providing a hard disk recorder (and live pause), time record facilities and also talking teletext. The product is in a prototype state at the moment, and as such I couldn't really explore it. It also has a DVD drive, although this facility is not working currently due to accessability of DVDs. I must say a few things about this product, because I think Portset have been very brave in designing a product which [A] replaces the old teletext reader, [B] provides a modern equavilent of the television receiver (where no license is required) and [C] gives a VI person a small box with all these features installed. They have a battle with teletext currently, since in the Freeview world each operator has really their own c
hoice over how things are done, and there is no standard in making these accessible or presentable to anything other than a standard Freeview box.
If you were going to Sight Village this week, I would definitely give this a look.
I also met up with Blazie who explained about the new version of the Pacmate software, and they were updating current units whilst there (although I was very early in the morning, and it was very quiet in the stand). Unfortunately I did not have my unit with me, and when trying to download update from FS direct, it told me my serial was not allowed!! Will need to get that sorted.
At Steve's stand I looked at the new System Access from Freedombox, which I was very impressed with. There are two versions available for portable use - one on a CD and one on a USB key. The USB key version I think came in at just over £300, including all the software. I am not sure whether you need to keep a Freedombox subscription up with that as well yearly. I was very impressed with the plug in, use it, remove it and no trace being left approach, which unfortunately is not the same with the Dolphin Pen (although the Dolphin Pen has magnification, and needs no yearly subscription). The system also has a recovery option, which means if the contents gets damaged, you can re-install the contents if you have an active Internet connection. Unfortunately, due to no connection being available, we were not able to look at the Freedom Box itself. I have downloaded a copy, but am only able to look at the desktop bit, and not System Access, so can't say how well the screen rea
der performs. There was also the GW Micro notetaker there, but unfortunately I got so swampt with notetakers today, I didn't get to memorise what the specialities with this one were.
I also saw the Oacis (spell) mobile from RNIB, which although has only basic features, is smaller than any series 60 phone, and the battery also lasts a lot longer.
This had been my first Sight at the new venues, and overall I found them slightly better than the old stuffy venue of QAC, however, I think that companies like Cobalt would do a lot better with larger stands, where they could get more people in. I certainly think that notetakers will be an interesting development over the following years, with even bets on whether we loose the specialist models for blind people approach and go with standard PDAs with bluetooth accessories, or wether these go altogether.
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