Pace - IT Adaptive Tech Reviews
Monday, July 09, 2007
  Handheld Magnifier Comparison
Magnifying glasses have gone high tech. Digital handheld magnifiers do far more than a regular magnifying glass and their portability make them useful anywhere. The biggest advantage they have is the ability to change the magnification level to meet the need. Most can change the contrast and reverse or change the colors. For many, white print on a black background is very hard to read. These portable magnifiers can reverse that or show yellow print on blue or many other combinations. They also can make reading something in the dark possible since they light up the object you are looking at.

First the EnhancedVision Amigo. It is a nice unit with a tilting screen that makes it easy to read something that is lying flat on a table. There is also a writing stand that holds it up off the table so that you can get a closeup of where you need to write and makes room for your hand and pen. It is less than 2" thick and has larger screen, 6.5" diagonally. It also can connect to a TV to give greater magnification. The rechargeable batteries are a standard camcorder battery and can be replaced easily.

The GW Micro Portable SenseView is a very nice product and is cheaper than the Amigo and has a longer lasting battery, up to five hours continuous use. It is smaller but also costs half as much as the Amigo. It doesn't have the tilt-function or the ability to connect to a TV. Even though it doesn't have TV output it does have a video input. Both units have the snapshot feature so you can capture an image, like a number from the phone book, and then move the unit without losing the image. Both can view in color, B&W, or various other color modes. Since the SenseView can't have another battery plopped in when it goes dead they had the foresight to provide a battery meter so you can be prepared to recharge the batteries.

Head-to-Head Comparison:
Amigo vs. SenseView
6.5" screen vs. 4.3" screen
1.3lbs vs. 7.8 oz
3.5x - 14x magnification vs. 4x - 22.5x magnification
Tilt screen vs. No tilt
Video output vs. Video input
Battery replacement vs. Battery Meter
$1,695 vs. $795

In summary, I think the SenseView is a more cost effective and useful product but some features of the Amigo, like the Video Out or the tilt function, might make it worth the extra money for some uses. Neither is very good for reading something like a novel or textbook but for looking up a phone number or reading a medicine bottle they are incredibly versatile.
  Productivity with Multiple Monitors
Using multiple monitors is becoming much more common for computer users when they discover how helpful it can be. Laptop users find it the easiest to use multiple monitors because laptops have a port to connect an external monitor and the monitor settings can easily be changed to use the second monitor as an extended desktop or a mirror of the laptop monitor. Windows easily allows up to three monitors to be used as mirrors or as an extended desktop.

What are some of the benefits of multiple monitors. Here's a few scenarios:
1. A student with mobility impairments and has trouble managing print materials can have a word processor on one monitor, their resource material from a website on a second, and have their email or a second source open on a third. This is a lot easier than minimizing and expanding windows repeatedly or trying to squeeze two windows onto the same screen.

2. A laptop user needs a bigger monitor on a destop for aiding with a visual impairment but could use a zoom function on the laptop screen when unavailable. Different resolutions can be used on separate monitors, so something like photos could be full screen on one monitor while print is enlarged and scrolled on another.

3. A tele-commuter computer user may need to use a webcam for contacting co-workers but having their work materials on a second or third monitor will allow them to discuss the work without having a webcam window over the work.

Individual work requirements might create obvious needs for multiple monitors but awareness of the technical possibilities can encourage a relatively inexpensive computer upgrade to increase productivity and reduce fatigue.

Adding an extended desktop monitor to a standard Windows computer is easiest with a USB adaptor like the Tritton SEE2 USB 2.0 SVGA Adaptor. Only one Tritton adaptor can be used at one time currently. They run around $90 and they can be installed on any computer you wish whereas adding a new video card to your computer is more involved and not transportable.
You won't usually find a video card that has two VGA ports so you'll have to use another adaptor for the DVI port. In our project we wanted three monitors active on one computer and had to use both a new video card and the Tritton USB adaptor. You'll want to be sure that the video cards have enough power and memory to support the resolutions on the LCD monitors you are using but non-gaming needs have much lower capacity requirements.

In our project we were using a triple LCD monitor adjustable arm from Arcview. It is very flexible in locating and adjusting its placement. Someone who is using speech recognition software then they won't have to worry about access for keyboard and mouse but otherwise this arm will allow the monitors overhang the keyboard if you wish.

Some users find it easier to look up and down than side-to-side so you may need to consider monitors that are essentially stacked vertically. Two monitors are easier to support than three, as already mentioned, and may provide most of the increase in productivity with diminishing returns in adding a third.

In summary, there is a combined need for ergonomics and productivity in deciding to use multiple monitors. Having three poorly placed monitors is likely to be less productive and may cause more physical problems than one properly placed monitor so ergonomics is a large factor to consider.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
  IBM Designs New Web Browser for Blind
This new A-Browser isn't available yet but this effort is very welcome. It specifically helps users manage streaming video and other images.
Friday, January 26, 2007
  Speech Recognition Miscellaneous
The following is a list of links to miscellaneous items related to Speech Recognition:
  Speech Recognition Software Options
The following is a list of Speech Recognition software options of various kinds:
  Speech Recognition Related Hardware
The following is a list of links to Speech Recognition related hardware such as microphones, digital recorders, and keyboards:
  Speech Recognition Training Resources
The following is a list of links to Speech Recogntion training resources and Hints & Tips:
  Speech Recognition presentation Web Links
The following is a list of the links found in the
PACE-IT presentation "Speech Recognition Comes of Age":
  Speech Recognition Podcasts
The following is a list of audio and video podcasts on the subject of Speech Recognition.

The Power of Speech Recognition
An excellent talk from EASI on how to use Speech Recognition to help people with learning disabilities. Several excellent hints on using Dragon NaturallySpeaking and choosing microphones.

Speech Recognition Transforms the Way People Use their PCs [Video]
Nuance president tells a little about the latest version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Innovation Tip: Sad story of a missed breakthrough Episode
A critical viewpoint on the history and missed opportunities of Dragon NaturallySpeaking. The history the speaker relates sheds some light on the current situation.
Here is also a follow-up on this podcast after the speaker heard from the president of Nuance:
Innovation Tip: Naturally Speaking Episode

Language Barriers Be Gone [Video]
IBM's MASTOR Speech-To-Speech is demonstrated in this video. They translate between English and Chinese and Arabic. They claim that this will be commercially available in about three years though it is currently being used by the military in Iraq.

Speech-to-speech translation capability makes its way to Iraq
Speech recognition translation is being used in Iraq war by the military during training exercises.

Google's Speech Recognition Research
What is Google doing with their Speech Recognition research? Mike Cohen, head of the company's efforts in this area and a co-founder of Nuance Communications, says that speech recognition will increasingly play a bigger role in all Web-based applications going forward.

Can You Hear Me Now?
Interview with Roberto Sicconi, manager for mobile conversational computing at IBM, explains how and why speech technologies will become a standard element of most mainstream applications.

Hi Again, Speech Recognition
Business Week looks at the current situation and promise of Speech Recognition applications.

Thursday, January 25, 2007
  Speech to Speech Translator
This was one of Ray Kurzweil's predictions that we could translate speech from one language to another. He thought it would be over the telephone but IBM is doing it on laptop computers and it is being used by troops in Iraq to translate between English and Arabic.
IBM researchers ‘MASTOR’ speech recognition - podcast

Here's a video podcast from ABC News demonstrating the MASTOR. They say it will be commercially available in about three years. Very impressive technology.
Ahead of the Curve Language Barriers Be Gone
PACE IT--Preparing Avenues for Competitive Employment in Information Technology (& Related Fields)

Technology evaluations for PACE-IT
What are the best products on the market to help you maximize your education and work experience? This blog will identify some of the strengths and weaknesses of various hardware and software items and combinations. If you have experience with some products mentioned, or questions, then please comment.

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