On Wednesday, me and a couple of colleagues and tutors from work traveled to Frankfurt to visit the Sightcity, the biggest international exhibition for blind- and visually impaired-specific products in Germany, and there were a few highlights I’d like to talk about…
I visited the Sightcity the first – and last – time together with Gaudio-Braille during my internship period in May 2014, so I was thrilled to check out how the development of different products I’ve seen in the past might have improved and , of course, what’s new.
We first stopped by at ORCAM Technologies, who
introduced the ORCAM 2.0. It is way smaller in size and only includes a glasses with a magnet on it in order to connect the device – which now concludes the central unit and the camera in one small device – to the glasses. The ORCAM 2.0 can now be connected to the WIFI in order to update or install additional languages, so there is no more need to replace SD-cards that first had to be shipped along. A disadvantage, however, is the less battery time. Still, I personally can’t find a reason to get an ORCAM, even if financial support is assured by the health-insurance. Another minus is that, if more than the pre-installed languages are needed, you obviously have to buy another language package; as if a couple-thousand Euros aren’t expensive enough! They couldn’t yet tell us for sure how much an additional language package would cost, but I heard something about 1000 Euros and that is definitely a little too much, at least in my opinion.
In short, the ORCAM is a great tool and might really come in handy; but as long as I can live with apps like “Seeing AI”, “Be My Eyes” or “Be Specular”, I can’t find a reason to buy the ORCAM myself.
The Second – and probably biggest highlight for me – was the Navibelt by Feelspace!
This belt has 16 vibrating elements and shows the way by vibrating in the direction of movement. It is pairable with a smartphone with bluetooth, and a turn-by-turn navigation is already supported (at least on Android, iOS coming soon). But as for the iOS-devices, it is possible to combine the Navibelt with Blindsquare, so if you start to follow a certain location, the belt will vibrate in the compass direction where the location is situated in. However, please note that this has nothing to do with a turn-by-turn navigation; at least you are able to get the hang of where you are and how far you are still away from your desired location. If the belt is not paired to a smartphone, it just works as a compass and shows you in which direction you have to face in order to look north. The vibration is very soft and doesn’t distract me in first place, however, it is possible to increase and decrease the strength of vibration eitherway.
I first thought that products like the Navibelt must be expensive, just like a lot of other aids for the blind- and visually impaired. In the end, it surprised me when I discovered that the Navibelt is only priced at round about 880 Euros, which is way cheaper than I ever expected! In other words: I’d really love to put my hands on a Navibelt for further testing, and even if it is not possible to get financial support, 880 Euros are still fair enough to spend on such a device, so I would buy it anyway!
Last, but not least, we visited American Printing House For The Blind!
They, in fact, came up with two quite revolutionary types of braille displays:
The first one was a small and very portable 20-cells braille display, priced at $550, which is probably the cheapest price for a braille display, considering that most of the other braille displays are priced at $2000 minimum, but mostly even more expensive. Obviously, removing the routing keys (to quickly jump on a particular cell with the cursor) was one of the facts that did the trick and reduced the price.
Secondly, they presented a tablet-like braille display. One of its key-features is the ability to import pictures and even draw your own pictures on the display with your fingers. I think this would be a great plus in Geometrics lessons, however, they recommended to just import certain figures for a more accurate result. Of course, it would also be possible to draw inside the imported pictures. This product is still in testing-stage, but the guys at APH announced an estimated price of something around $5000, (again) way cheaper than I thought!
Visiting exhibitions like the Sightcity is always a great chance to talk to the developers directly and take some time to test some of their products and have a more detailed talk about them. It was totally awesome that we were granted to visit the Sightcity together with some of our tutors, and I am already looking forward to come back, hopefully next year again!