Last week I spent one and a half days at BETT; the biggest education technology exhibition in the UK. There are many large exhibitors (Google, Microsoft etc.) who have spent thousands on their stands and are all amplifying their presentations so they can be heard over each other. However the really interesting stands – as far as Assistive Technology is concerned – are tucked away up on the balcony or in the SEN Zone which is right at the back of the hall.
This post will focus on interesting new hardware developments and I’ll write in the near future about software developments. Click on any images for a larger view.
I’ve always been a little dissatisfied with large keyboards and their dismissal of the function keys (F1-F12). They either do away with them altogether (limiting keyboard shortcut use) or make them tiny (no help to those who benefit from the other large keys). On the Monster Keyboard they are a decent size and therefore give the user access to the full keyboard.
As you can imagine many companies at BETT were trying to tap into the market for iPads. Two products stood out, both from LEBA Innovation:
The iShell doesn’t look very stylish but it is a great solution for protecting an ipad and being able to carry a charger with you. It doubles as a stand and the iPad can be plugged in while still in the case. There are a range of colours available. It is a bit of an extreme solution and not one many students would want to take up. However if students with more complex needs are carrying iPads and are more likely to drop them it is much more sturdy than a leather or rubber case. You will need to email/ring them for further details as I can’t find any trace of the iShell on their website.
NoteSync enables institutions who are managing many iPads to synchronise and charge up to 16 iPads at once. It can be connected to a PC or Mac to perform the sync and uses its own power supply to charge the devices. In fact you can connect two NoteSyncs to one PC or Mac and sync 32 iPads at once. I realise for many institutions having this many iPads is not a problem they currently face! However it is likely with time that iPads (and other tablets) will have much more of a role. For an example see the ongoing iPad pilot BRITE is carrying out with Motherwell College.
There are many personal video magnifiers out there, so you could ask “do we need another one?”. The big difference with The Boost is that it is only £130. The image quality and features are not quite up to the standard of a device like the Ruby, but they are still good and the Boost is less than half the price. It features Colour/Black and White/Reverse image, freeze frame and two levels of magnification. There is a stand available for £15 which gives a handle to one side and enables the Boost to rest over the desired text/image. The Boost can be obtained from Sight and Sound Technologies.
The Integramouse Plus enables users to operate a mouse by using their mouth. The lips are used to direct the pointer and a blow and/or suck are used to click. Any typing is done with an on-screen keyboard or using voice recognition software. The Integramouse has been around for a number of years, but this an updated model which is wireless, easier to mount and has increased levels of hygiene. In the UK the Intergramouse is available from Keytools. I was talking to the managing director of Lifetool (the Austrian manufacturers) and asked him whether they had lost out to people using eye-gaze systems instead of Integramouse. He said that on the contrary, once people discovered the cost of an eye-gaze system (£5000 upwards) the Integramouse (£1700) seemed cheap!
SnapScan Ultra Portable Scanner
Fujitsu claim the SnapScan S1100 to be one of the smallest A4 scanners in the world. It measures 273mm x 47.5mm x 34mm and weighs 350g so would be suitable for anyone who needs their scanner to be portable. The other advantage is it takes its power from a USB port so there is no need for a seperate power supply. The is not the quickest taking 7.5 seconds per A4 page, but for occasional use and considering the size this is not bad. It is supplied with ABBY Fine Reader OCR Software and is PC and Mac compatible.
In other exciting BETT news – I saw Johnny Ball!
For readers under 30 – He’s Zoe Ball’s dad.
For readers under 25 – nevermind.
Assistive Technologist, BRITE