December 9, 2018

The Second-Generation iBill®

On September 18, 2012, Orbit Research announced a second-generation version of the iBill® Talking Money Identifier. When the original iBill® was released in late 2009, it was truly a very competitive product. Other currency identifiers were priced over $300, and they were too large–so large, in fact, that they could not fit in your pocket. The original iBill®, on the other hand, was light, small, and priced at $99. Moreover, it could be set to speak, beep, or vibrate; and people who were deaf and blind could use it.

I am not one who automatically accepts the claims made by companies extoling the virtues of their products. I prefer to rely on personal experience or to solicit the informed views of people whose judgment I trust. In the case of the iBill®, Orbit Research claimed that it was able to identify paper currency in less than a second and that it was better than 99.9% accurate. My personal experience has proven this to be true. The iBill® has never misidentified paper currency; the worst thing that happens is that you get a message which says “error,” which means that you should try reading the currency again; and this happens so rarely that I can’t remember the last time it happened to me. For the hundreds of times I have asked the iBill® to read paper currency, it has always come through in less than a second.

Good as the iBill® was back in late 2009, there were two issues that seemed to come up over and over again. First, there were those who thought that the iBill® needed an earphone jack to support private listening to the announcements about currency denominations (this was not a view that I shared). Secondly (confirmed by my own personal experience), while it was very easy to insert newer currency into the reading slot, older paper money would often not slide in quite so easily, making the reading experience more than a little frustrating. Both of these problems have been quite handily solved with the second generation of the iBill®. Moreover, the new iBill® comes with other improvements as well. So, if you buy the second-generation iBill® today, you will notice these improvements:

  • The buttons on the second-generation iBill® are recessed so that they are not pressed inadvertently when it is placed in a purse or pocket.
  • The second-generation iBill® has corners that are more rounded, giving it a more compact feel.
  • The new iBill® has an earphone jack; you can now have your currency read out loud without other people listening (an earphone can be obtained from Orbit Research).
  • A new and improved reading slot makes it easier to insert older currency into the iBill®. You can now use a finger to push older currency further into the slot.
  • The volume has been enhanced so that the iBill® can speak even louder than ever.

The bottom line for me is that even though the price of the new iBill® is $20 more (it is now priced at $119) than the original, it is still well worth the price–that is, if you are looking for a reliable, long-lasting, and durable currency identifier. Smart phone users will be quick to point out that some very good currency identification apps exist for the iPhone and Android smart phones, and they are certainly far less expensive than the iBill®. For those of you who do not want or need a smart phone, the iBill® is there for you–and at an affordable price.

The iBill® can be purchased directly from Orbit Research through its Website: http://www.orbitresearch.com. For more information, contact:
Orbit Research
3422 Old Capitol Trail
Suite 585
Wilmington, Delaware 19808
Phone: 888-606-7248
Email: information@orbitresearch.com
Website: http://www.orbitresearch.com

Humanware Adds PDF Document Support to Keysoft 9.2

Humanware has announced the release of Keysoft 9.2 which promises “instant access” to PDF documents for the Apex BrailleNote and VoiceNote family of products. The update, which requires one count of SMA, “allows for any accessible PDF documents (PDF with imbedded texts) to be converted to a text file, enabling professional documents to be received on the Apex as email attachments and opened and read without the use of a computer or other external converter.” If editing of the file is not required,  the PDF document can be opened  with the same method that is used to open a standard book.

The press release also listed these new features:

  • Larger downloads with more information
  • More dynamic Apex QT keyboard
  • Better WindowEyes control

For a full list of features and downloading information, click on Humanware.

RoboBraille Converts Just About Any File into Accessible Format

RoboBraille logo

RoboBraille is an email and web based service for converting documents into any one of a large number of accessible formats. It is easy to convert a plain text document into Braille, ePub, or audio formats. You can also convert between other formats such as rich text format word (both .doc and .docx), Excel, and PDF. And, just about any image format like JPG, BMP, PCX, TIF, and PDF can be converted into text. Tools are provided for splitting files and changing the character set of a file. RoboBraille supports fifteen different languages and is free for non-commercial use. This is the best file converter we have seen. It is very flexible and produces high quality results (although it did not make much sense of our cell bill).

IBM PC Turns 30

Vintage IBM PC with green screen monitorThis week is the 30th Anniversary of the IBM PC. Some of us are old enough to remember the early days of Henter-Joyce and even the Video Voice screen reader from a small Berkeley startup called Grassroots Computing. Those were the days, when DOS could talk, and there was no graphical user interface to spoil the fun.

The original IBM press release promoted the first PC as “the computer for just about everyone who has ever wanted a personal system at the office, on the university campus or at home” with an introductory price of $1695. An original review of the new PC said that it was professionally put together and “the whole world and its grandmother will soon be frantically” writing software for the new computer. Leave a comment and let us know about your first computer and screen reader or other assistive technology experience.

The First Alert Wireless Talking Smoke Alarm

White, octagonal First Alert Talking Smoke Alarm

First Alert Talking Smoke Alarm

The new First Alert Onelink smoke and carbon monoxide detectors with voice alarm keep your entire home safe by communicating with each other wirelessly. You can hear an alarm no matter where you are in the house and the integrated voice announcement tells you where the alarm originated.

This means that if an alarm sounds in your basement, all of the alarms will sound and critical moments are not lost waiting for the smoke to reach an alarm near where you are sleeping. You will be sure to hear the 85 decibel alarm and the programmable voice will tell you where the danger is in your home.

Chris Grabowski of Mystic Place Blog and Podcast demonstrates how to set up and use the First Alert Onelink in his latest podcast.

NVDA Free Screen Reader Latest Release

NV Access has announced a new version of NVDA, the free and open source screen reader for Microsoft Windows. That’s right, I’ll say it again, free and open source screen reader.

NVDA logoAccording to the NVDA website, the screen reader provides “feedback via synthetic speech and Braille, it enables blind or vision impaired people to access computers running Windows for no more cost than a sighted person. Major features include support for over 20 languages and the ability to run entirely from a USB drive with no installation.”

And it’s free!

The new release, version 2011.2,  lists several improvements. NVDA now includes:

  • configurable levels, custom labels and character descriptions for punctuation and symbols
  • no pauses at the end of lines during “say all”
  • better ARIA support in IE
  • improved XFA/LiveCycle PDF documents
  • greater access to text written to the screen
  • access to formatting and color info for text written to the screen

The creators and developers of NVDA, Michael Curran and James Teh (yes, I typed that correctly, autocorrect!) felt that people should not have to pay extra to be able to use a computer just because they have low-to-no vision.

In a quote from the Queensland University of Technology website, Mr. Teh said, “A sighted person takes for granted that they can sit down at any computer and use it.We really are in the information age – everything is online these days. So access to computers for the blind and vision impaired is incredibly important, which is why we wanted our software to be free. …[NVDA] can also be copied to a USB stick, which can be used on any PC at school or university, with no installation required.”

What is your favorite screen reader? Do you think screen readers should be included with the operating system, a la Voiceover? Give us your opinion in a comment.