Kurzweil: Scholarships, Upgrades, Predictions
At conferences in June and July, Kurzweil Educational Systems demonstrated Version 9, an upgrade for the Kurzweil 1000 scanning and reading software, to be released in September. Building on the program's diverse range of features designed to enhance reading productivity, the new version includes additional online search capabilities (AccessWorld® and two online encyclopedias have been added to the fixed list of online publications it can access), improved scanning accuracy, the ability to navigate links in documents, a talking business calculator, and expanded study tools.
Ray Kurzweil, renowned inventor of the first reading machine 30 years ago, presented 30 scholarship winners with a copy of the software on July 4th at the National Federation of the Blind convention in Atlanta, Georgia. At the same event, Kurzweil, now chairman emeritus of the Bedford, Massachusetts, company bearing his name, delivered a speech predicting the technology of the year 2020. One prediction, currently well on its way to becoming reality in the next year or two, is a portable scan-and-read device, a handheld unit that voices such environmental items as signage, product labels, or restaurant menus. For more information on Kurzweil products, go to <www.kurzweiledu.com> or call 800-894-5374 or 781-276-0600.
Jot a Dot, A Long-awaited Solution for Braille Users
Quantum Technology, the Australian-based company best known for its Mountbatten Brailler and PIAG tactile image maker, plans to release its innovative, handheld brailling device, the Jot a Dot, near the end of 2004. Intended to serve as an easy, mechanical means of making quick braille notes, the Jot a Dot has a Perkins Brailler–style keyboard, can be held in one hand, and allows you to write braille directly onto paper. Simple to use, the device will provide an efficient means of making braille notes on paper, offering an alternative to individuals who have found the slate and stylus to be difficult or inefficient. Quantum has recently made an agreement with Optelec USA, making the latter the master U.S. distributor for all Quantum products. For more information about the Jot a Dot, go to <www.jotadot.com>. For information on other Quantum products, go to <www.quantech.com.au> or e-mail <email@example.com>. To learn more about Optelec USA, go to <www.optelec.com> or call 800-828-1056 or 978-856-2511.
Maestro—An Accessible PDA
VisuAide, the Canadian-based company that has brought two of the leading digital talking book players to the market, introduced its new Maestro at consumer conventions this summer. Maestro is an off-the-shelf handheld PDA that has been adapted for use by people who are blind. Over the unit's touch screen, which is used by sighted individuals with a special stylus for pointing and drawing, VisuAide has added a keypad membrane that can be navigated easily by touch. According to VisuAide, in addition to performing its own functions (such as an address book, personal organizer, and memo recorder), the Maestro can be used to operate VisuAide's GPS device, Trekker, and its digital talking book device, Victor Reader, and to act as a PC operated by a wireless keyboard. The device is expected to begin shipping in September 2004. For more information, visit VisuAide online, <www.visuaide.com>, or call 888-723-7273 or 819-471-4818.
BrailleNote PK on the Way
Pulse Data has announced the imminent arrival of the BrailleNote PK, the company's newest PDA. The BrailleNote PK weighs less than one pound and measures 6.8 inches by 3.6 inches by 1.3 inches. It includes BlueTooth wireless technology, which allows you to securely exchange information with other BlueTooth-enabled devices. BlueTooth is available on many mobile phones, personal computers, headsets, and keyboards. Other features are compatibility with all braille formats and Microsoft Word and an address list that can be synchronized with other BlueTooth-enabled devices. The BrailleNote PK will ship later this year. For more information, contact: Pulse Data HumanWare; e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>; web site: <www.humanware.com>; phone: 800-722-3393 or 925-680-7100.
YouSearched.com is a new search engine, designed with the intention of being fully accessible to people with disabilities. Supporting its claims of friendly searching for all, the site boasts seals of approval from the Royal National Institute of the Blind (United Kingdom), with its "See It Right Accessible Website" logo, and Bobby WorldWide, as well as compliance with 508 web accessibility guidelines. The aim of YouSearched.com is to offer an easily navigated web site and search engine that can be used by people with screen readers, refreshable braille displays, and other technology that might pose difficulties in the graphical environment. To test it yourself, go to <www.yousearched.com>. For more information, contact: YouSearched; phone: +44-207-935-1244; e-mail: <email@example.com>.
"A Library for the Price of a Book"
Founded by Richard Seltzer, Samizdat is an online store that provides collections of books on CD, all in plain text format and organized logically for easier location and retrieval. The CDs are usually $20 or $30 and are available in such categories as literature, history, philosophy, and science. For example, a CD of world literature contains over 1,200 books, a CD of children's literature has over 500 offerings, and one containing American literature has recently been increased to nearly 1000 titles. There are collections featuring a particular genre, country, author, or topic. Those interested in joining an e-mail list can receive a free e-book of the week. For a list of books, prices, and complete tables of contents, go to <www.samizdat.com>, or send an e-mail to Richard Seltzer at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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