[Athen] Something to be on the look out for
rbeach at KCKCC.EDU
Tue Sep 14 08:39:41 PDT 2010
This sounds interesting. I hope it comes to completion.
Introducing the Wizard
The Wizard is a braille Personal Digital Assistant, PDA, designed specifically for blind people. Most of us use PDA's in our personal lives and know them as smart phones, iPad's, laptop computers, and even desktop computers. The Wizard is a similar device that is tailored for blind people. Instead of a screen, the Wizard features a 20-character braille display with synthetic speech output and a standard braille keyboard for data entry. Packaged to keep it small and portable, the Wizard is about half the size of a sheet of paper and less than one inch thick, so users can take it everywhere they would take a cell phone.
Why Create Another Braille PDA for Blind People?
Braille PDA's for the blind are not a new concept. The technology has been available for almost three decades, but since blindness is a low incidence disability in the U.S,. the size of this market does not encourage the same innovation that drives mainstream technology. As a result, current braille PDA's are expensive-in the $5,000-10,000 range- and often lack the same features as sighted people have come to expect in a PDA. What makes the Wizard different is that it is being produced by a Boston-based non-profit, National Braille Press, that is dedicated to literacy for blind people through braille. NBP is committed to creating a braille PDA that is affordable, with a wide range of features, and uses Android as an open source platform to encourage innovation.
Wizard Features and Functions
a.. 8 dot braille keyboard with an imbedded cursor pad.
b.. 20 cell, 8 dot braille display with cursor routing and forward and back keys.
c.. Android Operating system found in many smartphones.
d.. 32GB of internal storage, users can plug SD cards into the back of the Wizard to create data backups or to load data from other sources.
e.. Bluetooth wireless connectivity for headsets and other hands free devices.
f.. WiFi connectivity to access local networks or other WiFi hotspots.
g.. Two USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports for users to connect to other computer devices.
h.. Accelerometer - the same chip that is used in games is also used to detect the orientation of the Wizard and allows it to adjust when it is tapped or rotated.
i.. Speech input and output for users who want to listen instead of read braille, the Wizard has synthetic speech output. It also has speech input so users can perform voice searches, dial by voice, and create voice short cuts.
j.. Cellular connection for data and voice, which can be used as a cell phone and smart phone for email, web browsing, and smart applications.
k.. Built-in speakers and microphone for users with a cell phone carrier contract to make and receive phone calls.
l.. Headphone/headset jack, a standard jack where users can plug in their favorite headphones.
m.. GPS receiver to identify locations, and with the help of smart applications, to provide navigation information. Android-based navigation applications for blind users are currently being created by other developers.
n.. Compass to help users navigate.
o.. Built-in music player. Users can load a music library on the Wizard and listen via speakers or headset.
p.. 5Mp camera, for photography and to identify items or surroundings in the user's environment. Applications are available that can photograph and read a printed page.
q.. Video output connector: for users who need a visual display.
National Braille Press is currently in the first year of product development and making significant progress. A working prototype of the Wizard is expected to be completed by 2011 and the device will be available to the public soon after that. Since Android is a working, usable operating system, we expect to continually upgrade and expand the features of the Wizard. Applications for the Wizard will be created by third party developers so there is unlimited possibility for the product to evolve based on the user's needs.
About National Braille Press The Wizard is a project of the Center for Braille Innovation (CBI) (insert link) at National Braille Press (www.nbp.org<http://www.nbp.org>), which began in the winter of 2009. In an effort to increase brwaille literacy, the Wizard was conceived as the first CBI project, one of many projects that NBP's Center plans to initiate to make accessible technology products for blind people so that they can stay connected in the digital world. NBP is taking a leadership role to research, develop and produce specific affordable accessible technology products that will help promote braille literacy for young readers, and support blind students and adults in school and in the workplace environment. While paper braille will not disappear in the immediate future, NBP believes that it is equally important for blind people to have accessible technology to access information that the digital age provides
Worldwide Collaborations Since the launch of National Braille Press's Center for Braille Innovation, NBP has been joined by the National Federation of the Blind, The China Braille Press, the World Braille Foundation and the American Printing House for the Blind to partner in various affordable technology projects for blind people. The Wizard project is being funded by the National Braille Press, federal appropriations, the National Federation of the Blind, and the China Braille Press. As non-profit organizations, these groups are committed to ensuring that blind people have access to technology at affordable prices. If you would like to donate to this project, please go to (www.nbp.org<http://www.nbp.org>) to learn more. !()
Robert Lee Beach
Assistive Technology Specialist
Kansas City Kansas Community College
7250 State Avenue
Kansas City, KS 66112
rbeach at kckcc.edu
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