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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 September 2008 Issue  Volume 9  Number 5

Letters to the Editor

Debating Innovation in the CCTV Market

Regarding the article, "Rootbound Thinking in an Anemic Low Vision Industry," by Jim Halliday [in the July 2008 issue of AccessWorld], as a 30-year veteran of the low vision and CCTV industry, I have seen numerous changes over the years.

I also had the privilege to know Jim Halliday and to work with him at Telesensory in 1985-86. I have tremendous respect for Jim and his work.

Historically, he has his facts essentially correct. However, his conclusions are wrong, and, as I read the article, I could not help feeling it was a thinly disguised advertisement for the myReader. Now, there is no question that the myReader was, and still is, an innovative device that has attempted to advance the state of the art in CCTV technology. However, it has fallen far short of its potential primarily because of two factors--a high price and a fairly complex interface. The attempt to eliminate the x-y table in favor of OCR [optical character recognition] scanning technology and a reformatted presentation that the user can manipulate are innovative and useful for some people with low vision. There is just one problem! It does not work very well for the majority of seniors who have low vision.

Jim also asserts that most CCTV users get fatigued quickly when using a traditional CCTV. That does happen sometimes. However, it is not a universal truth, and it has not prevented thousands of people from buying and using CCTVs every day. A brief rest period every 30 minutes or so enables many people to use their CCTVs all day long.

The fundamental design of CCTVs, which was pioneered by Sam Genensky more than 35 years ago, was so good that it has indeed evolved slowly. However, many CCTV companies continue to utilize improvements in video technology to improve their own devices. The company I currently work for, Enhanced Vision, has introduced or made improvements in several important aspects of the basic design over the years. These improvements include the use of flat screens, flexible monitor arms, simplified controls, and both portable and head-mounted devices. We have also significantly reduced prices over the years, which has made the devices more affordable and attractive to a larger number of visually impaired users.

CCTV companies have come and gone. I have worked for several of them. However, to call the industry "anemic" only serves to point out HumanWare's failure to capitalize on the technology and the opportunity that still exists in the marketplace. Enhanced Vision continues to grow and prosper and to introduce new CCTV products annually. We see the CCTV industry as dynamic and challenging with considerable growth potential still ahead. If Jim sees it as anemic, he is missing the point!

Marc Stenzel

Vice President, Sales

Enhanced Vision

I have been a CCTV user for about 15 years, so I have noticed the changes and the stagnation in the industry. There are a lot more manufacturers and model choices than there were in 1993. Yet the basic concept has not progressed, as the author states. Personally, I have never felt the need for all the enhanced features, like auto focus and color schemes. I am a basic white-text-on-black background user.

I do have a color CCTV at home, but I find it only marginally useful. I used to use it for looking at photos, but now with the popularity of digital photos, I can just look at them on my computer monitor with magnification from ZoomText. Both of my CCTVs have manual focus.

Don't think that I am a Luddite for having such bare-bones CCTVs. I am in the IT industry and keep on top of the latest technological trends. This brings me around to the real reason why I think that CCTV technology is stalled. With the proliferation of online reading content and the wide availability of audio books, it just doesn't even make sense to read a book under a CCTV. In my early days of CCTV use, I would take the newspaper and struggle to get through an article after wrestling with the newsprint pages. Now I sit comfortably in front of my computer and have my newspaper read to me by ZoomText. I can also magnify it and spot read sections of interest.

I still find a CCTV to be an important tool in my life, but I find that I no longer use it on a daily basis. It shouldn't be marketed to users as a replacement for pleasure reading. However, for everyday tasks like reading mail, medicine bottles, instruction manuals, and so forth, it is invaluable.

David Cleveland

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