Vibrating belts, a pair of vibrating shoes… good lord, even our clothes become more and more multifunctional!
Together with some colleagues from work, I visited the Sightcity on May 10th and there are a couple of technology improvements and companies I came across.
KAPSYS is a company specialized in accessible cellphones for blind and visually impaired users.
They currently sell two versions, one of which is SmartVision, an Android-based smartphone with a touchscreen and a keypad.
The 2nd option is a normal cellphone (MiniVision) which comes with some extra features, such as everyday-life apps, a color detector and an FM radio.
I am not entirely sure about the price of these products anymore and the German dealers who sell KAPSYS products only give you a price per request. However, at least as far as the MiniVision is concerned, they told me something about €350 on the Sightcity. With all the functions it comes with, it might even be reasonable; but I think I would consider whether i’d rather go for a smartphone for €350 plus/minus other than the MiniVision..
More information about KAPSYS can be found hereunder:
Last year at the Sightcity, I talked about American Printing House For The Blind (APH), who came up with a Braille tablet prototype on which you could review, edit or draw graphics pretty easily. This year, however, they disappointed me a little when they told me that they didn’t bring the tablet and also hadn’t had any information concerning ongoing developments.
Nevertheless, Feelif came up with a similar idea… They demonstrated smartphones and tablets with the ability to let you explore pictures by touch with vibrational and audible feedback.
Depending on the vibration strength, you could even tell the color of the current point you are scanning with your finger, and a series of sounds should give you directions to the next point in order to explore the picture step by step, from point to point.
Of course, it takes time to learn how to scan the pictures, tell the color and familiarize yourself with the sounds and all that cannot be done within a 15-minute demonstration, but scanning a map of Europe turned out to be fairly easy, especially because the countries and water parts were announced. Therefore, I could also recognize some of the countries’ shapes but, to be fair, I partially knew them already from past Geography lessons where we explored the world with tactile maps.
More information about Feelif’s products can be found at http://www.feelif.com
Now, let’s try on a pair of vibrating shoes, shall we?
The innomake is a shoe which holds a sensor unit in its tip for obstacle recognition, vibrational and/or audible feedback and an adjustable range up to 4 meters; settings can be adjusted with an app which connects to the sensor unit via bluetooth.
For now though, I personally rather rely on my cane. Also, I found it strange to walk in these shoes, due to the long, stiff shoe tip which holds the unit. Furthermore, although you can insert the sensor units into other types of shoes, only one type of shoe is included in the package and any additional pair of shoes costs extra and, in comparison to an ordinary pair of shoes from the shop next door, it is quite pricy.
Still, it is an interesting idea, although I think it won’t fully replace the cane. Nevertheless, it might still come in handy (not only for blind or visually impaired people, but also for certain rescue missions where you can’t rely on your eyesight).
Find more information about the Innomake at https://www.tec-innovation.com/INNOMAKE/en/home-en/
Later on at “Technik Für Alle (TFA), I discovered a similar sensor unit; however, this one comes with a clip to fasten it on a cane, a t-shirt or any other place. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the device nor the company, but the guy at the stand told me that a lot of people would use it to clip it on their canes or near their head in order to recognize possible obstacles higher up in time and guess what, it is way cheaper than the Innomake solution and can be worn at different places other than the shoe tip.
Last, but not least, say hello again to FeelSpace’s Navibelt, which has received some improvements during the course of the past few months!
For Android users (iOS coming soon), it is now possible to turn-by-turn navigate to a desired place and, by pressing a button on the belt, you can enter a mode to cross streets. As far as I understood, the belt insures that you cross the street in a straight line, without accidentally getting off track.
As I still own the Beta model, I am currently arranging things to exchange the old model with the newer model, and I keep you posted as it happens and share my experiences.
For the time being, check out their website for more info at http://www.feelspace.de/