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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 May 2008 Issue  Volume 9  Number 3

Evaluation Update

The SenseView Handheld CCTV Adds a Handwriting Feature

"Waiter, we are ready for the check!" After dinner out with friends, it is time to pay the bill. For people with low vision, this can be an awkward time. If you are the host, you may not want the guests in your party to know the amount of the bill or how much of a tip you leave for the server. But if your low vision keeps you from clearly seeing the bill, writing in the amount of the tip, and seeing the line on which to sign, you may have to ask for assistance from a sighted person to do so. But, then again, maybe not.

In past issues, AccessWorld responded to readers' questions about the recent growth in the number of portable, handheld closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) on the market by publishing reviews of several models. This particular product update reports on a new feature of the SenseView, the handheld CCTV from GW Micro, that was originally reviewed in the November 2006 issue.

Most handheld CCTVs have some sort of handwriting feature. But the facilitation of handwriting is second in priority to magnification for these devices. Therefore, the design of the handwriting feature is often less than ideal or nonexistent. In AccessWorld's November 2006 review, I wrote: "The SenseView is not well suited to handwriting because you must keep the camera close to the text you want to see. Therefore, there is not enough room to place your hand under the device to facilitate handwriting. This is a significant shortcoming. Handwriting is not even mentioned in the User Manual as a use for the SenseView." In the article's "What Would Make it Better" section, I suggested including the ability to handwrite. I mentioned that I often travel for my work and frequently need to review hotel and meal receipts and then add a tip, write in my hotel room number, print my name, and add my signature. I explained that these tasks were not suited to the SenseView and stated that without the handwriting function, the usefulness of any handheld CCTV is limited.

The good news is that it looks like the manufacturer has been listening to feedback on its product because it has now added an optional camera to facilitate handwriting. This new, extremely lightweight, plug-in style camera has increased SenseView's functionality, allowing you to sign documents, write checks, fill out short forms, and write notes, which you could not do with the SenseView before. All these tasks allow for greater independence.

This new plug-in camera is different from handwriting cameras on other handheld CCTVs in two main ways. First, it is a separate, optional accessory to the product. With most similar devices, the main camera rotates to provide a handwriting feature, or you hold one end of the device up off the paper a few inches and place the tip of your pen under its camera to write.

Second, because it is a separate camera, it attaches in a way that enables you to hold the pen in a natural, more comfortable, position. The models for which you hold up one side of the magnifier to write make it necessary to grip your pen about halfway up, instead of closer to the tip. Gripping the pen in this manner causes your handwriting to be less neat than it otherwise would be.

With the new SenseView camera feature, it seems that what makes it stand out from its competition in a positive manner is a detraction at the same time. The plug-in camera allows you to write more comfortably, resulting in neater handwriting than with some other models, but it is a separate piece that must be attached and removed. The fact that it is a separate piece also adds to the risk it could be lost or damaged.

The plug-in camera has a one-year warranty and comes with a small, black velvet drawstring bag that can offer protection while being carried in a pocket or purse. When you want to write, you plug the camera into the side of the SenseView, turn on the SenseView, and then press the button on the camera, which turns on the camera and its LED (light-emitting diode) lights.

When you first use the plug-in camera, you may, as I did, find it a bit awkward to attach, although after a little practice, you will get the hang of it. It is best to use the handwriting feature in the full-color display mode with the lower levels of magnification.

Although the addition of the handwriting feature is a great improvement, one way this product could be improved is to incorporate the plug-in camera into the physical design of the SenseView. Doing so would obviously require a great deal of effort to redesign the product, but it would make it more streamlined and easier to use.

The SenseView is priced at $825, and its optional handwriting camera has an introductory price of $99. The two items can be purchased at the same time, or if you already own a SenseView unit and would like to add handwriting functionality, you can contact GW Micro to purchase the optional camera. The camera will work with the unit you already own.

While neither the SenseView's plug-in camera nor any other handheld CCTV camera takes the place of a more traditional desktop CCTV, it does add a good bit of needed functionality while you are on the go.

Product Information

Product: SenseView Handwriting Camera.

Manufacturer: GW Micro, 725 Airport North Office Park, Fort Wayne, IN 46825; phone: 260-489-3671; e-mail: support@gwmicro.com; web site: www.gwmicro.com.

Price: Introductory price $99.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail us at accessworld@afb.net.

Related Articles

How to Buy a CCTV by Carol Farrenkopf
Magnification in Hand: A Review of Two Handheld CCTVs by Lee Huffman


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