Hi I've used the Virtouch mouse. I read about it and was quite excited as the company's website implied that it could be used instead of, or in addition to a screenreader and made claims for it that weren't true. The website claimed that the product would display Braille but that didn't work. I tested the mouse for a couple of weeks on my computer at work. There were no scripts with the software to allow it to interact with computer applications. All I could do was access the sound files which came with the unit. These sound files oriented a user to the functions of the mouse. I was able to play the games which came with the mouse and actually interact with the computer in a way that a sighted person would. The product was sold here in the U.S. by Adaptive Technologies in MA. The people I e-mailed at virtouch and at Adaptive Technologies indicated that their priority was selling the device as a game controler to teach kids Braille and other tactile skills. I think the product is still available but the Virtouch website is out of date. I'm not sure if this approach would work to produce an Optacon but I think a tactile mouse could be used as a computer accessory to enhance the performance of a new type of Optacon connected to a computer screen. Last night I couldn't sleep and was thinking about the Optacon in the future and thought that the camera unit which would have wheels would look like the virtouch mouse and have a couple of buttons to change the size of the image on the array or maybe change the intensity of the vibrations. The camera would connect to the array the way it does now although I suppose there could be a wireless connection. IN addition to a tactile array, there could be software in an Optacon to use haptic technology. I do think the use of haptics could be helpful in getting tactile feedback but I'm not sure how haptics would be used in a new type of Optacon. If I understand how haptics work the technology uses magnetic force feedback to represent shapes. You get the tactile images not literally but as resistance when you move a mouse around on a computer desktop. There are already a couple of shareware products out there that will let a blind person use a mouse but I'm not sure if this could be extended to an Optacon. I mention haptics since many sighted people are using haptic devices in games and like the idea that they get sound and tactile feedback when they interact with computers. I hink using haptics would be useful in providing graphical information but would have to be an adjunct to a new type of Optacon rather than the Optacon itself. I think the basic problem with a new Optacon would have to be building a tactile array and then deciding how to transmit the information from print to the tactile array. I don't know if an Optacon would be an analog device, or if it would work like a PDA with a digital camera. The one advantage I can think of having a PDA is that there could be a USB port and you could save and copy images to a computer. or update the Optacon software from a computer like you do with any other PDA. I like the idea of having the Optacon as a PDA mainly in the sense that you could copy and save images for later review or maybe even e-mail an image to another user to see how they would interpret what you scanned. The nice thing about having the ability to save images would be that you could later manipulate them to make them larger or smaller or explore the image with the tactile array without having to carry around the original document. I could see having the ability to save images being used in a practical way with PowerPoint where you could scan slides and save the images and attach your own labels. If the PDA had software to modify the image you could make it larger or smaller depending on your reading needs. I was in a class last fall and the written material was a book with PowerPoint slides. I had two separate files one in Microsoft Word containing the text, and the other containing the text of the PowerPoint slides. Just having the text wasn't really enough as it lost its relationship to the visual elements in the slides. The whole books was pages where you could review information and write down answers in the balnk parts of the page and this format didn't translate well into texst. I was trying to read the documents with a Braille Lite and it ended up being more trouble than it was worth. If I had had an Optacon I could have read the text with the same spatial orientation as the other people in the class. I think another challenge in incorporating the Optacon into a PDA would be developing a screenreader to manipulate the software. Just having synthetic speech would leave out people who are deaf blind. If Braille output was included in the screenreader then this would add another level of complexity to the device. These are just my thoughts and I hope that something can be done. I do wonder though about the differences between analog and digital devices. Are there still analog electronic products out there? I'm a keyboard musician and I don't see any more analog instruments out there being made. By the way, there are other portable scanners with speech output available besides the KNFB Reader. For those that are interested check out the website of Guerilla Technologies for Mobileyes. This device does scanning and reading but also has an MP3 player and toher things. Sorry this e-mail has gone too long but I wanted to get a word in edgewise. Dan To unsubscribe at any time, just send a message to: optacon-l-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word "unsubscribe" (without the quotes) in the message subject. Tell your friends about the list. 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