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Sight Village is hotting up

19th July 2006 • Dave

With 35 degrees C being the high in the Midlands today, most people are finding the heat and humidity horrendous. It is as hot hear in the UK as it was last week in Florida. The difference being the Americans have air con in most buildings, where as usually in the UK we do not have a need for such extravagancies.

The intense heat did not prevent hundreds of people turning out for day 2 of the 2006 Sight Village exhibition. Today as well as representing Dolphin again at Sight Village, I got the chance to lay hands on the new Braille Seika which is a budget 40 cell braille display costing just 1200GBP available in the UK from RNIB. This works out to about 30 pounds per cell which is around a third of the cost of many displays currently on the market. The display emulates the PowerBraille and so is compatible with most popular screen reading software. Personally I feel the Seika build quality lieves a lot to be desired. The unit is relatively large and heavy and the control buttons on the front edge of the unit felt slightly loose. If you are someone who likes your braille to be sharp and crisp this is not the display for you. Having said that, 1200 quid is an astonishingly low price for 40 cells of braille and hopefully products like this will shake up the industry. My only worry is that it potentially could lead to low quality product from the other manufacturers as they chase more affordable braille. Let us hope not.

Also at the RNIB stand I caught up with the developers of Talks, the first screen reader for mobile phones. I am a big fan of Talks on Simbian as it really spawned an industry of software products which provide comprehensive access to main stream mobile devices available from main stream suppliers at main stream prices. I took the free upgrade from version 2.5 to version 3 which includes: a graphic object labelling tool, automatic reading of caller ID, a user dictionary and support for more third party TTS. I am pleased to say that Talks 3 will not be available as public beta, and certainly the product installed on my Simbian phone feels like the stable and responsive real deal which we have come to expect from Talks. I would much rather the guys from nuance focused on the product rather than trying to support a massive public beta testing process. Final release expected at the end of the month.

Anyone reading my blog for some time will know I spent about a year raving about the Nokia N91 and N80 handsets which are based on Simbian S60 3rd edition. Congratulations to Nuance for being the first to provide comprehensive access to this platform. While many of us may be thinking about Windows Mobile based devices, we cannot ignore the fact that Simbian still represents over half of the Smartphone market.

As well as getting my first hands on with the N91 today, I got to check out a couple of the Nokia E series handsets which are also based on S60 3rd edition. The E60 WCDMA and WLAN capable handset, has a classic design, sleek metallic finish and feels tremendous in the hand. The E61 is basically a BlackBerry-type device targeted at frequent mobile emailers. The internal speakers on both devices are surprisingly good. After a period of seeming silence from Nuance, it is marvelous to hear the range of Talks capable devices expand to include the E series and the N series handsets.

Dolphin have announced progress on Smart Hal, which will be a complete screen reader for Windows Mobile Smartphones. This is a natural evolution of Hal from the desktop through Pocket PC/Windows mobile and soon to be Windows Mobile based smartphones. Dolphin will also be the first UK company to have developed a complete screen reader for mobile phones. The spannish company Code Factory who have been promising Windows Smartphone access for some time, are now estimating the end of the month as a possible release date for their Windows smartphone access.

For those of us with a vested interest in access to main stream mobile devices, the future is looking very bright indeed.

The temperature tomorrow is expected to be down from today around 31 degrees C. Still a tad too warm for my English sensibilities. Ah well, normality will resume shortly.

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