Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top 10 Posts of 2012

Here are the top 10 posts on the Assistive Technology Blog as rated by number of views. Thanks to everyone who read the blog. Please check back in the new year for more cool posts.
  1. iOS 5 Tips: Use Assistive Touch to Replace a Broken Home Button, Lock Button or Volume Button
  2. What is Assistive Touch?
  3. What does iPhone 5 and iOS 5 Mean for Assistive Technology?
  4. Read PDF Files Aloud with vBooks PDF Voice Reader
  5. iPhone 4S Accessibility Features
  6. iOS 5 Tip: Look Up Any Word
  7. Android Becomes More Accessible With 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  8. Assistive Touch Improvements in iOS 6
  9. The Kindle Fire Is Not Accessible
  10. Prizmo: Fast, Accurate, Full Featured OCR App for iPhone Review
What was your favorite post of 2012 let us know in the comments.

Favorite Assistive Technology Apps & Products of 2012

As 2012 comes to a close I decided to make a run down of my favorite assistive technology apps and products that I have been using this year. This list is in no particular order.

Click read more view the list.

PaperPort Notes App Adds OCR Functionality

Nuance's PaperPort Notes app for iPad received a major update. The highlight of the update is the ability to take a picture of text to add the text to your notes. The Optical Charactor Recongition (OCR) feature is slower than other competing apps but is accurate. The improved cameras on the newest iPads allow OCR to work well. To learn about the other features of the free PaperPort Notes app click here. Click here to download the app.

Click read more below to view screenshots of PaperPort Notes.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Google Play Books Adds Read Aloud Feature

Google Play Books is the Google's ebookstore and companion reader apps. The Android reader app was recently updated to include a text-to-speech read aloud feature. Click here to download the free app for Android. The text-to-speech voice is a little above average but gets the job done. The read aloud feature works with most books in the Google Play store. If you have an Android device be sure to check this app out.

Click read more below to view screenshots of Google Play Books.

Friday, November 30, 2012

iTunes 11 Feature Helps Visually Impaired Redeem Gift Cards

A feature in Apple's iTunes 11 allows you to scan a gift card code using your computer's camera. The feature is particularly intriguing for the blind, visually impaired and for dyslexics. While it may be inconvenient for most people to type the 16 digit code, it is impossible for users who are blind or visually impaired, and can be a struggle for some dyslexics. To use the feature position the gift card in front of the computer's camera. For people with visual impairments VoiceOver, Apple's built in screen reader on your Mac will help you frame the card in the picture. Then iTunes recognizes the code and credits the money to your iTunes account. This feature makes it possible for the blind and visually impaired to easily and independently redeem iTunes gift cards. Maybe this cool scanning feature will make its way to iOS in the near future.

Click read more below to view pictures of the scanning feature in action.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nook App for iOS Updated to Support VoiceOver and Zoom

Great news, the Nook app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is now accessible to the blind, visually impaired and people with print disabilities. The updated app now supports VoiceOver and Zoom. VoiceOver and Zoom are built in accessibility features in iOS. To learn more about VoiceOver click here. With VoiceOver you can have the book read aloud using text-to-speech. Oddly enough the update makes the Nook app more accessible than current Nooks. Serious kudos to Barns & Noble's for making their app accessible. To download the app for free click here.

Click read more below to view more screenshots.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Livescribe Sky Wifi Smartpen: Handwriten Notes With Audio in the Cloud


The Sky Wifi Smartpen from Livescribe is a WiFi enabled pen that has a built in audio recorder. This allows you to digitize handwritten notes which you can sync to Evernote wirelessly when in a compatible WiFi hotspot. (See below for Evernote description) The smartpen allows you to take handwritten notes which are linked to an audio recording of what was being said at the time you wrote your notes. The pen can record audio using a built in or external microphone. Using specially designed note paper, you simply touch "record" at the bottom of the dot paper page and begin writing notes. The camera at the bottom of the pen tracks where you write and the built in microphone records what is being said. The result is that your writing is linked with whatever was spoken at the time. In other words each pen-stroke is linked with the sound that you heard at that time. So if you are in class and your teacher is discussing President Washington and you write "President Washington" later you can playback everything the teacher said about Washington at that time by touching the pen to the words "President Washington."

Many of the pen's functions are accessed by touching buttons printed on the specially designed dot paper with the tip of the pen. When you are done taking notes you simply press the stop button at the bottom of the dot paper notebook and your handwriting and audio recording is automatically synced to Evernote. Click here to view a sample note. From Evernote you can view the note and listen to the audio or share the note.

Click read more below to read the full review.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Slow Down iOS Home-Click Speed

The iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch home button does more than just take you do the home screen. With a quick double tap it can bring up the multitasking pane or music controls. With a quick tripple click it can be used to start an accessibility feature such as VoiceOver, Zoom, Assistive Touch, or Guided Access. If you find it difficult or impossible to double or tripple click the home button quickly you can slow down the speed in settings. To slow down the home-click speed go to settings > general > accessibility > home-click speed.  This setting is only available in iOS 6. To learn how to upgrade to iOS 6 click here. This setting will allow you to press the home button much slower in order to activate the double or tripple click actions. Watch the above video to learn more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ask Google Voice Search How To Spell Unfamiliar Words

Google's recently update Google Voice Search is very useful and extremely fast. There are also a few tricks that can make the app even more useful. One trick is to ask Google Voice Search "how do you spell..." Google will quickly return the correct spelling of the word and speak the spelling aloud. Unlike Siri, Google Voice Search speaks the spelling back to you so you do not need to look at the screen. This trick is especially useful for people with dyslexia and people who are struggling spellers.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

PDF Expert Review

PDF Expert is an elegant PDF manager, viewer and annotator. The app is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch but the iPhone version and iPad version must be purchased separately. You can easily add PDF to the app by using the "open in" feature. Once you have PDFs in the app you can organize them into folders and sub-folders. The highlight of PDF Expert is its annotation features. PDF Expert allows you to quickly and easily add note, text, signatures, watermark stamps, images from the camera roll or audio notes to any PDF. You can search for a PDF by title or by the contents. PDF Expert also includes a passkey lock feature that allows you to protect your sensitive PDFs. 

Unfortunately, PDF Expert does not include text-to-speech for PDFs. Even PDFs created on the computer cannot be read allowed. Also there is no optical character recognition feature for scanned PDFs. If these features are not important to you than PDF Expert is a great choice because of all the other great features. If text-to-speech is important to you than you may need to look elsewhere.

PDF Expert sells for $9.99 in the App Store. Click here for the iPad version and here for the iPhone and iPod Touch version. Click read more to view screenshots of PDF Expert.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Google Search App Updated With Advanced Voice Search Similar to Siri

Google just updated its iOS search app to include advanced voice search. The new feature is similar to Apple's Siri. Click here to download the free app. With the Google Search app you can ask questions by voice and get spoken feedback. The Google app is very quick and the voice recognition is accurate. It is almost indential to the voice search included in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It is able to answer a broad range of questions and always has Google search results to fall back on. The Google app cannot read text messages, call people, set reminders, dictate notes, set alarms or be used from the lock screen like Apple's Siri. The Google app is still great for asking questions and getting good answers. Also for people without Siri the Google app is a great alternative. 

Watch the video above to see Google voice search in action. Click read more below to view screenshots of the Google Search app in action.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia" A Great Movie About Dyslexia

A new movie called The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia is going to premier Monday, October 29 on HBO. I was lucky enough to go to a screening last week and would recommend it to anyone with HBO. The film gives a good overview to dyslexia and leaves viewers on a hopeful note. A large part of the film focuses on a dyslexic teen's journey through high school and into college. The film also follows other dyslexic students and their parents. The film features a number of famous dyslexics and Dr. Shaywitz, a nationally renowned expert on dyslexia. I hope The Big Picture will help educate and empower people around the country.

Click read more below to view more videos from The Big Picture.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Apple Announces iPad mini

Today, Apple announced the iPad mini a 7.9" iPad running iOS 6. The iPad mini is cheaper than the full size iPad with a starting price of $329. The smaller size and lower price could make the iPad mini perfect for teachers and students. Like the full size iPad the iPad mini includes a number of great accessibility features including VoiceOver, Speak Selection, Siri, Assistive Touch, Guided Access and Zoom. These accessibility features makes the iPad mini great for all types of people.

The iPad mini includes a FaceTime HD camera, 5 mega pixel rear facing camera and A5 processor. The 5 mega pixel camera allows OCR and scanner apps to work well. The iPad mini also includes the lighting connector that is smaller and easier to plug in. The iPad mini will be available for pre-order on October 26 and for sale on November 2.  Click read more to view more photos of the iPad mini.

Monday, October 22, 2012

100% Netflix Videos to be Captioned by 2014

Netflix and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) have settled a lawsuit regarding captioning of streamed movies. Netflix agreed to have 100% of streamed movies captioned in 2014. The agreement is good news for deaf movie watchers everywhere. The settlement may help compel other movie streaming services to add captioning. Captioning is necessary for deaf and hearing impaired movie watchers.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ariadne GPS App Review

Ariadne GPS is an app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that allows people with visual impairments to navigate their surroundings. Ariadne GPS app is best suited for the iPad and cellular iPad because those devices have the most accurate location information. The app is fully compatible with VoiceOver allowing visually impaired users to use all features of the app. Ariadne GPS helps the user explore their surroundings by using the GPS of your iOS device to convey information about location, direction of travel and nearest favorite locations. The app can enable blind users to navigate streets, transit systems and even large buildings. When traveling on a train or a bus a blind user could set Ariadne GPS to alert them when they were getting close to their stop. A blind user could also program there classroom locations into the app in order to help navigate a large school building. As a user walks with the app can read street names and numbers. iAriadne GPS also has a map mode which allows a visually impaired user to access maps with VoiceOver.

Ariadne GPS is made to integrate perfectly with VoiceOver. It is a really well thought out app that solves a complex problem. United States users may find some of the labeling odd because the app is was designed over seas. For example street addresses are spoken with the street name and then the number and city.

Overall the $5.99 Aridane GPS is defiantly worth checking out. Click here to view it in the app store. Click read more below to view screenshots and videos of Ariadne GPS.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Apple To Hold Special Event On October 23

colorful design with white apple logo at bottom

Apple issued invitations to select members of the media for an October 23 special event. The event will begin at 10 AM pacific. Apple is rumored to announce a new smaller iPad dubbed iPad Mini and possibly updated Macs. If the rumors are to be believed an iPad Mini could be a great device for education because of its smaller size and rumored lower price point. No matter what Apple announces on the 23rd chances are that it will have accessibility features to make it usable for those with disabilities. Check back on the 23rd to learn about Apple's announcement and the accessibility implications.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

iOS 6: Do Not Disturb Mode

A new feature in iOS 6 called Do Not Disturb is great for people with ADD or people who just do not want to be disturbed by calls, texts, emails or anything else that pops up on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Do Not Disturb blocks all notifications and calls. To enable Do Not Disturb go to settings and then turn on Do Not Disturb. To scheduled Do No Disturb mode to turn on at a certain time, go to notifications and then Do Not Disturb. It is a great feature for teachers and students so they can use there devices as educational tools without being distracted by notifications or calls. When Do Not Disturb Mode is on, a moon appears next to the time. Do Not Disturb allows users to allow calls from certain contacts or allows repeated calls to come through. Watch the above video to learn more or click read more to view screenshots.

Monday, October 8, 2012

iOS 6: VoiceOver Compatiblity with Maps, Assistive Touch, and Zoom

iOS 6 the latest operating system for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch includes new VoiceOver enhancements. The enhancements allow VoiceOver users to use zoom, Assistive Touch and maps simultaneously with VoiceOver. These new features are built into iOS 6 so there are no additional downloads. Watch the above video to learn more about VoiceOver improvements in iOS 6.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Assistive Touch Improvements in iOS 6

Apple's iOS 6 improves on the Assistive Touch feature that was originally introduced in iOS 5. Assistive Touch allows people with physical disabilities  to use an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. People with physical disabilities may not be able to use two fingers to pinch or to zoom, or may not be able to double tap a button, but Assistive Touch makes these tasks easier. Among the improvements are quick access to Siri, multitasking and screenshots. Assistive Touch still gives users the ability to make custom gesture. Assistive Touch now is compatible with VoiceOver so you can use both features at the same time. To activate Assistive Touch go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Assistive Touch. Click here to learn more about Assistive Touch. Watch the above video to learn more. Click read more below to view screen shots.

Monday, October 1, 2012

How to Use iOS 6 Speak Selection With Highlighting

Apple's newly released iOS 6 includes a new improvements to Speak Selection that highlights words as they are read aloud. Click here to learn how to update to iOS 6. The new feature is available on any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch running iOS 6. To access the feature go to settings > general > accessibility > speak selection. Once enabled simply highlight any text and press speak to have the text read with text-to-speech. Speak Selection is great for people with dyslexia or for reviewing documents.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Typ-O App Review

Typo-O is a word prediction, spelling and text-to-speech app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The app costs $14.99 and requires iOS 6. Click here to view the app in the App Store. Typ-O is simple and easy to use. To get started just start typing, Typ-O then predicts the which word you are trying to type. You can touch the word to accept the predicted word or you can press on a speaker button to have the word spoken  using a text-to-speech voice. The word prediction is very good and can help improve spelling. Hearing the sentence read back to you using text-to-speech can also help improve grammar. Once you have finished writing you can send your text via email or text message. Typ-O includes a number of customizable setting to help improve word prediction accuracy. One negative of the app is that it uses text-to-speech voices from the internet which means if you are not connected to the internet you must use low quality text-to-speech voices.

Watch the video above to see Typ-O in action. Click here to download a lite version of Typ-O to try before you buy. Click read more below to view screenshots of Typ-O.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What is Guided Access?

Apple's new iPhone 5 and iOS 6 are out and include many new accessibility features. One of the biggest accessibility features of iOS 6 is called Guided Access. iOS 6 is the operating system that runs on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. To enable Guided Access go to Setting > General > Accessibility > Guided Access. Guided Access allows an parent or teacher to restrict access to a single app. This restricts kids from switch apps to watch videos or play games. Guided Access also allows parents and teachers to block off individual buttons within an app. For example if an app have setting a teacher could block it off so the students could not change app settings. Guided Access is great for teachers, users with autism or users with ADD. Guided Access allows teachers to administer tests on the iPad without worrying about students looking up the answers on the internet.

Watch the above video to learn how to use Guided Access. Click read more below to view more videos of Guided Access.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Best Apps For Your New iPhone 5

Did you get the iPhone 5 today? Below is a list of apps to make the most out of your new iPhone 5.

Read2Go is the best way to access books on your iOS device.Bookshare provides free accessible eBooks for people with print disabilities. Click here to learn more about Bookshare. Once you download the app you can download over 150,000 books directly to your device. The best part of Read2Go is that students can easily read books anywhere because of the portability of iOS devices. To learn how to become a member click here.

Learning Ally (formally RFB&D) provides audio books to people with print disabilities. Members must pay a yearly fee in order to download books. To learn about how to become a member of Learning Ally click here.

Prizmo converts a picture of a document into text which can be read using text-to-speech. In short from document to text to speech in just seconds. Prizmo is also the fastest and most accurate optical character recognition (OCR) app I have every tested.

iBooks is Apple's eReader app. It is simple to use and accessible using VoiceOver. With iBook Textbooks students and teachers can download select textbooks onto theiriPad.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

iOS 6 Released, Download Now

Apple has released iOS 6 with over 200 new features as a free upgrade. iOS is the operating system that runs on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Included in the 200 features are new accessibility features. Among the new features are Guided Access, Speak Selection with highlighting and VoiceOver enhancements. To upgrade go to settings > general > software update. Watch the above video to learn how to update to iOS 6. iOS 6 is available for the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2, the new iPad, iPod Touch 4th generation and iPod Touch 5th generation.

To learn more about the accessibility features of iOS 6 click here. To view images of iOS 6 in action click read more below.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

How to Display an iPad on a TV or Projector

The iPad can be a great classroom tool for teachers and students alike. It can be great for showing websites, presentations and more. To share your iPad on your classroom TV or projector you may need to buy new software or cables. Read on to learn how to display you iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch on your TV or Projector.

Adapters- One way to easily get your iPad screen onto the computer is to use adapters. Apple sells two adapters, one for connecting to a VGA projector and one for connecting to a HDTV. To buy the VGA adapter from Apple click here. To buy the HDMI adapter from Apple click here. Use of the adapters are as easy as plugin them in.

Software- A software program for PC and Mac called Reflection allows you to display your iPad or iPhone screen on the computer. This only works with iPhone 4S and higher and iPad 2 and higher. If you have one of these devices Reflections may be your best option. Reflection is wireless and easy to use. Click here to buy Reflection for $14.99.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Brand New iPod Touch Announced

Apple released a new version of the iPod Touch. The fifth generation device includes the same large screen as the iPhone 5. In addition to large screen the new iPod Touch has a faster A5 processor, much improved 5 mega-pixel camera, iOS 6, Siri and Loop. Read on to learn what these features mean for people with special needs.

Camera- The new improved camera is good enough to use optical character recognition (OCR) apps. OCR apps allow you to take a picture of text and have it read back to you using text-to-speech. One great OCR app is Prizmo.

iOS 6- iOS 6 will improve the already great accessibility features of the previous versions. The new operating system will include features such as Guided Access and Speak Selection with synchronized highlighting. To learn more about iOS 6 click here.

Siri- Apple's voice activated personal assistant will make its way to the iPod Touch. Siri can answer questions, spell words, read messages, set reminders, check the weather and more.

Loop- Loop is a very interesting new feature exclusive to the iPod Touch. Loop is a detachable wrist strap that hooks onto the back of the iPod Touch. Loop could be a great feature for you children and people with physical disabilities. Loop is seen in the above picture.

The iPod Touch will be available in the coming weeks starting at $299. Click read more below to view more photos of the new iPod Touch.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

iPhone 5 Announced

Apple announced the iPhone 5 at an event today in California. The iPhone 5 includes and bigger screen, better camera, faster processor, thinner design and more. The iPhone 5 will run on iOS 6 Apple's mobile operating system which includes accessibility features such as VoiceOver, Guided Access and Speak Selection. Click here to learn more about iOS 6.

The iPhone 5 will be available for pre-order on September 14th and for sale on September 21th starting at $199. Click read more below to view more images of the iPhone 5.

iOS 6 To Be Released on September 19th With New Accessibility Features

Today, Apple announced that iOS 6, the software that runs iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, will be released on September 19th. The free software update will include new accessibility features such as Guided Access, Speak Selection with highlighting and improved Siri. Click here to learn more about Guided Access. iOS 6 will also include Made For iPhone Hearing Aids which allow hearing aid users to better use the iPhone. Along with accessibility improvements iOS 6 includes an updated maps app and more.

Click read more below to view more images of iOS 6 from Apple.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

HumanWare Communicator a Great Tool For Deaf-Blind Communication

HumanWare recently released the HumanWare Communicator app for iOS devices. The app is designed to make communication between a deaf-blind person and a sighted person possible.When the conversation is started an introduction is displayed for the sighted user to read. The deaf-blind person uses a Bluetooth braille display to type a message to a sighted person, this message appears on the screen of the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.  Then the sighted user can respond using the virtual keyboard and the message will appear on the refreshable braille display. The conversation can then go back and forth with the deaf-blind person typing on the braille display and the sighted user typing on the device's virtual keyboard.

HumanWare describes the app as follows,
"The HumanWare Communicator application is intended to establish a text conversation, through a chat window, between a deaf-blind person and a sighted person. All interaction appears both on the deaf-blind person's refreshable Braille display, as well as visually on the screen of the iOS device."
The HumanWare communicator is available in the App Store for $99.99 for devices running iOS 5.1 or higher. To view screen shots of the HumanWare Communicator app in action click read more below.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Apple To Hold Special Event on September 12

Number 12 casting a shadow of the number 5

Apple announced today that it will be holding a special event on September 12. Apple is rumored to announce a new iPhone, iOS 6 release data and possibly more. iOS 6 will include many accessibility enhancements including Guided Access. The new iPhone may include a better camera, faster processor and larger screen.

Come back on September 12 to hear all the new from Apple and how it effects the world of assistive technology.

IBM Sees Watson As Supper Powered Siri Down the Road

IBM's supper computer Watson who beat human competitors at Jeopardy! may answer your voice questions in a few years. IBM sees Watson powering a smartphone app that would act like a supper smart Siri. The app would answer your complex spoken questions in seconds. Not only would Watson be able to pull up facts quickly but it would be able to offer data driven advice for complex problems. The prospect of a Watson app is very existing but is still many years off. A Watson app would be like having a voice activated supper computer in your pocket. Watch the above video to see Watson playing Jeopardy!

Unfortunately, the technology for such a large scale role out of this system is years away but it is still fun to know whats coming.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Create iOS Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are a tool for improving typing speed on your iOS device. To create a keyboard shortcut go to Setting > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts. To add a new short cut click the plus button in the top right. You can create a short cut to write "see you" when you type the letters "cu." You could also create a short cut for your email so you can enter your email quickly with just a few key strokes. Watch the above video to learn more.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

iOS 6, iPhone 5 and iPad Mini Expected In Coming Weeks

Apple is widely rumored to be preparing to release a new iPhone, an all new smaller iPad Mini and iOS 6 with numerous accessibility improvements.

iOS 6: iOS 6 has been previewed by Apple at WWDC and will be released this fall. iOS 6 includes over 200 new features including new accessibility features such as Guided Access and word highlights with speak selection. iOS is the operating system that runs on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Guided Access will allow teachers and parents to lock the child into a single app and control what features of the app the child could use.

iPhone 5: Unlike iOS 6 the iPhone 5 has not been confirmed by Apple. But according to leaks and past history it is likely that the iPhone will be coming out it mid September. The iPhone 5 is likely to have a larger screen, a better camera and a faster processor.  

iPad Mini: Like the iPhone 5 the iPad Mini has not be confirmed by Apple. The iPad Mini is rumored to have smaller screen than the current iPad. The smaller size will allow Apple to lower the price compared to the iPad. If the rumors are correct the iPad Mini will be perfect for schools.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back To School Apps

The start of school is just around the corner. Teachers, students and parents are preparing for another year. Below is a list of iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch apps that could be helpful for the upcoming school year.

Read2Go is the best way to access books on your iOS device. Bookshare provides free accessible eBooks for people with print disabilities. Click here to learn more about Bookshare. Once you download the app you can download over 150,000 books directly to your device. The best part of Read2Go is that students can easily read books anywhere because of the portability of iOS devices. To learn how to become a member click here.

Learning Ally (formally RFB&D) provides audio books to people with print disabilities. Members must pay a yearly fee in order to download books. To learn about how to become a member of Learning Ally click here.

Prizmo converts a picture of a document into text which can be read using text-to-speech. In short from document to text to speech in just seconds. Prizmo is also the fastest and most accurate optical character recognition (OCR) app I have every tested.

iBooks is Apple's eReader app. It is simple to use and accessible using VoiceOver. With iBook Textbooks students and teachers can download select textbooks onto their iPad.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Enhanced Google Voice Search Coming To iOS

Google's enhanced voice search that debuted in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is coming to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch in the coming days. Google announced that the Google Search app for iOS will be updated in "the next couple of day" to include the new feature. You simply tap the microphone and ask a question and the result is spoken back to you. The enhanced voice search is similar to Apple's Siri. Stay tuned to learn more about Google voice search and how it compares to Siri. Google says the following about enhanced voice search,
"Often the most natural way to ask a question is by asking aloud. So we’ve combined our speech recognition expertise, understanding of language and the Knowledge Graph so that Voice Search can better interpret your questions and sometimes speak the answers back as full sentences. This has been available on Android for a few weeks and people love it."
Click here to download the current version of the app.

Update: The app has not yet been released and some are speculating that Apple may be delaying the update because it is a competitor to Siri.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

BlackBerry Screen Reader Review

The BlackBerry Screen Reader is designed to make BlackBerry phones accessible to the visually impaired. BlackBerry Screen Reader is compatible with the BlackBerry Curve 9350, 9360, 9370, 9320 and 9220.

Installation is complicated and may require the assistance of a sighted person. Unfortutantly, BlackBerry Screen Reader is not built into the phone. There are two methods for installing the BlackBerry Screen Reader. The first method is to visit this webpage from your BlackBerry. Another option for installation is to plug the BlackBerry into your computer and then install the Screen Reader. Connecting your BlackBerry device to your computer is the most accessible option for installation.

  • Physical Keyboard
  • Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Speak Everything On Screen
  • Free For Compatible BlackBerry Devices

Once installed  you will be greeted with a solid Screen Reader that makes the BlackBerry accessible. The visually impaired user benefits from the numerous physical buttons, including a full physical keyboard. Five buttons on the device are less tactile. These buttons include the answer, end, menu, back and end/off. While these buttons are flush with the device they are still used for the visually impaired once there location has been memorized. To be clear these buttons depress when pressed. The physical keyboard makes it possible to type eyes-free. Once you move away from the physical buttons and start navigating the screen, a text-to-speech voice begins speaking everything under your cursor. The BlackBerry I tested had a very loud speaker that made hearing the voice easy. To navigate the cursor you can use the trackpad. The trackpad is fairly sensitive so it may be best to turn down the sensitivity. Also, I found it helpful to turn on audible clicks when the cursor moves from one object to another. The BlackBerry Screen Reader also excels with the use of keyboard shortcuts. For example you can press a key combination to speak the time. Users can change the speech rate, verbosity and pitch.

Overall the BlackBerry Screen Reader is a solid screen reader that makes the BlackBerry accessible for visually impaired users. It is not as polished as other mobile screen readers such as Apple's VoiceOver. BlackBerry Screen Reader may not work with third party apps. Some work could be done in streamlining operations and stability. Also, the screen reader should be built into the BlackBerry from the start. Click read more below to view screenshots of the BlackBerry Screen Reader.