March 2017 Issue  Volume 18  Number 3

Product Evaluations and Guides

Feel the Buzz of the BuzzClip

Wearable technology, such as the Apple Watch, is currently a big trend in consumer electronics. The BuzzClip is a promising new entry in this market. The devices is worn on a shirt, jacket, blouse, or any other outer garment, and vibrates when the user gets close to an object. It is not meant to take the place of a white cane or a guide dog, but is intended to be used in conjunction with either method of travel.

The BuzzClip was developed by iMerciv Inc., and started out as an Indiegogo project in 2014. The company's founders, Bin Liu and Arjun Mali, have a personal interest in visual impairments. Liu's father has inoperable glaucoma and Mali's parents have supported a blind school and orphanage in India for many years.

What's in the Box

The BuzzClip comes in a small box along with a User Guide, a micro USB charging cable, an AC adaptor, and a cord lanyard.

The BuzzClip

There are three main parts of the BuzzClip, whose total combined size is only 2.5 inches tall by 1.3 inches wide by 1.75 inches deep. The device is black and weighs slightly more than 2 ounces.

A small but sturdy U-shaped clip connects the rounded sensor on one side of the U with the main body and the vibrational arm on the other side.

In addition to holding the BuzzClip itself, the U-shaped clip attaches the unit to an article of clothing.

A part of the rounded vibration sensor is cylindrical in shape and protrudes slightly; it points in the direction the sensor is aimed.

On the other arm of the U, the roughly rectangular main body houses the battery, a circuit board, and the charging port. The port can be located by running a finger along the side of the Clip. If you are holding the Clip with the sensor facing away from you, the charging port is on the left side near the top.

Attached to main body is the vibrational arm, which must be in contact with your body. On the arm, a small rectangular piece sticks out that can be pulled open as needed in order to get the vibration alarm closer to your body.

The User Guide

The User Guide is included in print and is also available from the website.

It can be read directly on the site or downloaded as either a PDF or MS Word document. The Web version was easy to navigate in Safari.

The included guide is printed on glossy paper; braille instructions are not available.

USB Cable and AC Adaptor

The USB cable has a standard USB Type-A connection on one end and a micro-USB A connector on the other. The micro connector goes into the BuzzClip. The other end can go into a computer or into the AC adaptor. If you have a new Touch Bar Mac laptop, you will need a USB Type-A to USB Type-C adaptor to plug into the BuzzClip.

Cord Lanyard

The manual does not include a description of exactly how to use the very convenient cord lanyard. Its purpose is to keep the BuzzClip from falling or being dropped. The lanyard goes around your neck and is attached to a small button. A small metal ring encircles the button. The metal ring is attached to a string loop that goes through the clip of the BuzzClip. Pressing the button releases the ring and string, and therefore releases the BuzzClip from the lanyard. To re-secure the BuzzClip, snap the ring back into its holder. This convenience means it is not necessary to put the lanyard through the spring clip or take off the lanyard each time you want to put on or take off the BuzzClip.

Getting Help

In addition to the user manual, help is available by calling iMerciv at 647-919-6565. Support is also available at info@imerciv.com

Operating the BuzzClip

When holding the BuzzClip with the sensor facing outward, on the right side of the sensor is a groove with one marking. Just below the marking is the On/Off button. Press and hold the button. The first set of vibrations indicates the battery level. The description is clear in the manual. The second set of vibrations indicates the BuzzClip is on.

On the left side of the unit is a groove with two marks. Just below the marks is the distance button. By default, the distance-to-object parameter is set for two meters or 6.56 feet. Every time the BuzzClip is turned on, it starts at two meters. Pushing and holding the button causes the unit to vibrate once and changes the distance setting to one meter or 3.28 feet. Repeating the procedure will change it back to two meters. iMerciv recommends using the two-meter setting for outdoors and the one-meter setting for indoors.

Turn off the BuzzClip by holding in the On/Off button. A long buzz indicates the unit is off. Charge the BuzzClip by either plugging it into a computer's USB port or by using the wall adaptor. When fully charged, battery life should be about 10 hours.

Wearing the BuzzClip

To attach the BuzzClip to your clothing, gently pull apart the arms of the U-shaped spring clip. The arms can move about 1/4 inch. With the sensor pointing forward, insert part of your outer layer of clothing into the space and make sure it goes all the way in to keep it secure. Double check that the sensor is pointed straight ahead and nothing is obstructing it.

BuzzClip is water resistant but not waterproof so take precautions. Cold weather is not an issue since it can tolerate temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius or minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

The remainder of the BuzzClip goes under or between your clothing. Only the sensor should be visible. Use the extendable rectangular piece if necessary to make the vibrations easy to feel.

When the BuzzClip detects an object, it not only vibrates but also makes a sound, though the sound is not very loud. Volume is not adjustable.

Range

According to iMerciv, if the BuzzClip is worn on your upper body or chest, it will detect objects between your waist and the top of your head. As the user approaches an object, frequency and intensity of the vibrations increase. The three strongest vibrations are delivered at about 50 centimeters or 19.69 inches from an obstacle.

BuzzClip has a ?sleep mode? for when you are standing a fixed distance from an obstacle or person, as would happen when waiting in line. Sleep mode engages after five to seven seconds of inactivity. It comes out of sleep mode when you, an object, or a person in front of you moves more than ten centimeters or four inches.

Walking Outside with the BuzzClip

For my evaluation, I took my guide dog and had the BuzzClip attached to my coat on my upper body. Getting the BuzzClip on a heavy winter coat took some work but I did get it fastened correctly.

BuzzClip did a very good job with bushes sticking out over the sidewalk including branches that were at head level. It indicated a car blocking the sidewalk and a trashcan. It had no difficulty reacting to a lamppost or a street sign.

Indoors

Indoors, with range set at one meter, BuzzClip detected a chair in the middle of the room, an open cabinet, a half opened door, and a horizontal bar positioned at forehead level. It was significantly easier to affix the BuzzClip to a shirt than to the heavy down jacket.

When I stopped to have conversations with people, BuzzClip stopped vibrating within a few seconds. When waiting in line, if the person in front of me stood still, BuzzClip stopped vibrating. If the person turned their head or reached for something, the unit sounded.

The Bottom Line

BuzzClip was extremely good at detecting objects at both one-meter and two-meter ranges. The user manual is well written. Battery life is very good.

BuzzClip's price is not listed anywhere on iMerciv's home page, which is a bit inconvenient. There is a "How to Order" link which brings you to a button for PayPal but the price is not listed until you log into your PayPal account. BuzzClip's cost and shipping are not broken down. On the PayPal page, it says shipping is $35. Since total cost is $284, the BuzzClip costs $249. I have visited hundreds of retail websites and have never encountered a situation like this. A customer should not have to log into PayPal to find how much something costs.

It is critical that the BuzzClip faces straight forward. Otherwise, it can miss objects in your path. It was more difficult to get it on a winter jacket or heavy sweater. Perhaps the spring clip could open a little wider.

This is a very good product if you are looking for more object feedback as you travel. Its small size, light weight, and easy use make it very convenient.

Product Information

Product: BuzzClip
Available from: iMerciv Incorporated, 647-919-6565, info@imerciv.com
Cost: $249 plus $35 shipping

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