Thursday, November 28, 2013

Made for iPhone Hearing Aids to be Avalible in Early 2014


Apple announced Made for iPhone Hearing Aids along side iOS 6 now the first Made for iPhone Hearing Aids are set for release. Apple's partnership with GN ReSound helped to create the LiNX hearing aid. The LiNX connects directly to the iPhone using a special wireless technology. Unlike other hearing aids the LiNX does not use an intermediary device to communicate with the iPhone. Apple says the following about Made for iPhone Hearing Aids on their accessibility webpage.
"Apple is working with top manufacturers to introduce hearing aids designed specifically for iPhone. They�ll deliver a power-efficient, high-quality digital audio experience, and will allow you to manage your hearing aid right from your iPhone. Just look for the Made for iPhone label. Explore the FCC's hearing-aid compatibility (HAC) ratings of iPhone."
A companion app allows users to change settings directly from their iPhone. The LiNX will cost $3,000 and will be available in 2014. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

ClaroPDF App: PDF Text-To-Speech and Annotation (Giveaway)





ClaroPDF is an accessible PDF reader with many annotation options. The app uses text-to-speech to read any text based PDF. The app also includes numerous annotations options including highlighting, text boxes, underline, strikeout, shapes, and images. ClaroPDF includes a simple design that matches the interface of iOS 7. Unfortunately, there is no full screen option that hides all controls so you can better focus on your document. To start reading a PDF you can use the open-in feature of many other apps or import a document using Dropbox. Then you can use a number of high quality text-to-speech voices to read the document at up to 240 words per minute. It would be nice to see the maxim speaking rate increased to around 400 word per minutes for people who are able to understand high rates of speech. To start reading the document you can just tap on a word a press the play button.

Currently in version 1.2.6 there is a bug that causes layout issues with certain documents. The issue causes documents to not fill the entire screen.

Besides a great interface ClaroPDF includes a wide variety of annotation options. These annotations are easy to add and manage. ClaroPDF even includes the ability to add voice notes. One option that is not included is the ability to automatically add text notes to every blank in a document. This feature would significantly speed up the process of filling out forms.

ClaroPDF costs $0.99 and works on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Watch the video above to see ClaroPDF in action a click read more below to view screenshots of ClaroPDF in action. Click read more below for giveaway details.

Giveaway

Retweet and follow the ClaroPDF below tweet  for a chance to win one of ten promo codes. Code expires on 12/24/13 and is redeemable only on the iTunes Store for the United Kingdom. Requires an iTunes account, subject to prior acceptance of license and usage terms. To open an account you must be above the age of 13 and in the United Kingdom. Compatible software and hardware, and internet access (fees may apply) required. Not for resale. Full terms apply; see www.apple.com/legal/itunes/ww/. For more information, see www.apple.com/support/.




Monday, November 25, 2013

Livescribe 3 Smartpen: Do More With Your Written Notes



By combining the ease of hand writing, the power and accessibility of Apple's iOS devices, and audio, the Livescribe 3 Smartpen is a powerful tool.  With the smartpen you can start writing on a pad of paper and see your handwriting appear on your iPad or iPhone almost instantly.

When taking notes It can record audio that is linked to your handwriting, allowing you to easily hear what was happening exactly when you were writing.  It can easily search through notebooks of handwritten pages to find the right note in an instant, and it allows you to share your notes with anyone without copying or scanning.

The Livescribe 3 Smartpen is not just a refinement of last year's Sky Wifi Smartpen. The Livescribe 3 Smartpen adds new functionality by pairing it with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. The Livescribe 3 is still capable of syncing handwriting and audio, but instead of recording the audio from a built in microphone, the recording happens on an iPhone or iPad paired to the pen with Bluetooth. With the pen connected to an iOS device using Bluetooth, features like handwriting recognition and cloud based storage options are handled by the iOS devices. Most of the pens functionality is handled with the free Livescribe+ app that seamlessly manages the Smartpen.

Read on to find out more about the Livescribe 3.

Hardware and Requirements

The Livescribe 3 is a sleek and streamlined device that is about the same size as some thicker standard pens. The pen twists open to reveal the ball point tip. No more forgetting to turn on your pen, it turns on automatically when the tip is out. At the bottom is a special camera that allows the pen to track its location on the page. At the top of the pen is a stylist tip. The stylist tip hides a micro-USB charging port. Speaking of charging, Livescribe claims the pen gets 14 hours of battery life. At the top there is also an indicator light that shows the status of the pen. The Livescribe 3 uses advanced Bluetooth to connect to the companion app. The pen only supports Apple devices because they have the widest compatibility with the new Bluetooth standard. Livescribe may support Android devices when advanced Bluetooth is more widely available. The pen is compatible with iPhone 4S and newer, iPad 3rd generation and newer, and iPod Touch 5th generation. The companion app requires iOS 7.

The Livescribe 3 requires a special dot paper that Livescribe sells on their website. Some may think of this a negative, but the Livescribe notebooks come in a variety of sizes and are competitively priced.

Livescribe+ App

The Livescribe+ app is the brains of the Livescribe 3 smartpen. The pen sends your notes to the app over Bluetooth and then processes the handwriting and turns it into digital text. The app makes it easy to review notes in a page view or list view. Because the app turns handwriting into digital text, it is simple and fast to search through your notebook. You can search by keyword and easily find all associated notes. Once your handwriting has been converted to digital text you can use the built in iOS Speak Selection feature to have your note read aloud with text-to-speech.

The handwriting recognition was amazingly accurate even with my sloppy handwriting and if it does make a mistake you can manually correct it. If you write down a phone number or an address you can save the information as a contact with one tap. If you write down a homework assignment you can save it directly into your Reminders list which is a nice touch. Using an iOS device as the brains of the smartpen allowed Livescribe to remove the screen, speaker, microphone, and wifi which considerably slimmed down the pen. Using an external microphone eliminates the writing noise that the Sky Wifi Smartpen picks up.

Taking the microphone out of the smartpen does not come with out compromise. Because the smartpen relies on the iOS devices microphone you can not record audio without an iOS device nearby. You can still capture your written notes and sync them next time you have your iOS device handy. For some who don't always have their device close by, but still want to record audio the Sky Wifi Smartpen is a great option. If you always have your device close by this won't be an issue.

Sharing your notes is one area where the Livescribe+ app really shines. Using the standard iOS 7 share sheet you can share your notes to any app that supports PDFs. This includes Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, and many others. Currently recipients of your documents that don't own an iOS 7 device can only view your handwriting and cannot play back the audio and linked notes known as a pencast. It is really unfortunate that the ability to view pencasts on desktops and Android devices was not present at launch. 

Benefits

The Livescribe 3 can benefit many people who need to keep useful notes for work or school. It can be especially useful for students with learning disabilities who struggle to take or keep notes. For example if a teacher is talking about graphing points and the student gets distracted, he can easily go back in his notes and listen to the audio at a later time.

Teachers and special educators who have multiple students who get class notes provided as an accommodation can easily use the Livescribe+ app to share the note instantly with everyone in the class. This eliminates the need for hard-to-read carbon paper or delays due to photo copying. For people who struggle with organization, the ability to search for notes maybe enough of a reason to purchase the pen. Using a conventional ball point pen for writing is much easier than using a stylus to write on an iPad. The Livescribe 3 gives you the ability to write with a ball point tip while still getting all of the benefits of having your notes on your iPad.

Possibilities

The Livescribe 3 Smartpen and Livescribe+ app have really solid features that have benefits right out of the box. If you decide to buy the pen you should decide to because of the features currently available, but with very capable hardware and the flexibility of an iOS app Livescribe could and should continue to improve the product. One feature that I would like to see added is the ability to speed up and slow down audio playback. Variable playback speed makes it easy listen to more audio in less time. With the Sky Wifi Smartpen this was an option, but it is not currently available in the Livescribe+ app. Audio transcription is another feature that would be a great addition to the Livescribe+ app. Imagine listening to a lecture and having the entire text transcript of the professor even if you weren't able to write everything down.  With improving speak recognition software this feature is probably technically possible.

Pricing and Availability

The Livescribe 3 starts at $150 for the starter edition. A pro edition with a darker finish, larger leather starter notebook, replacement ink, one year premium Evernote access sells for $200. Both editions are avalible from Livescribe's website.

Videos and Images




Device was provided complimentary to reviewer

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fantastical Makes Staying Organized Easy



Fantastical 2 is a well designed calender app for the iPhone. Many say Fantastical is the calendar app Apple should have made and I would agree. Just like the default calender app for the iPhone Fantastical is easy to use and syncs with all of your online calenders. But Fantastical includes some great features that makes scheduling, managing, and viewing your calender events easy. Thes are features that the default calender app does not include. Creating events is easy, you can type or speak in natural language to create an event. If you type "lunch with study group at 1 in library" the app will automatically fill the correct information into a new calender event.

Fantastical also includes a five day view that gives a great visual look at your week ahead. The month view also provides more visual information than the default calender app. Fantastical also integrates with Reminders and displays your Reminders along with your calender events. The app includes many features that allows users to customize the look and function of the app.

Fantastical's visual design  and easy event creation feature makes staying organized easy. Fantastical can help people with memory loss or executive functioning difficulty to stay organized. With Fantastical you only have to check one app to keep up with your calender and reminders.

Fantastical's latest update improved VoiceOver compatibility, but there remains some very minor VoiceOver issues. These issues make learning how to use the app slightly harder for VoiceOver users, but once familiar with the function of the app VoiceOver users should have no problem using the app. The developer has expressed that they take accessibility seriously which is great to hear.

Watch the above video to see Fantastical 2 in action and click read more below to view screenshots of the app. Fantastical 2 for iPhone costs $2.99 on the App Store.





App was provided complimentary to reviewer

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bookshare Offers Free Membership to Disabled Veterans Attending School


Bookshare recently announced that they will be providing free membership for disabled veterans who are currently attending a United States college or university. Bookshare also serves disabled civilian students and others with print disabilities by providing free downloadable accessible books. Veterans who qualify, but are not enrolled in school will have access to a 30 day free trial. After the trial veterans continue using Bookshare for a $50 yearly membership fee. Especially on Veterans Day it is great that veterans who are disabled will be able to access over 215,000 accessible books from the Bookshare library. Bookshare's press release says,
"Accessible books can break down reading barriers and open a new lifeline to reading to go back to school, learn a new vocation or read for pleasure."
A membership provides an individual with electronic books that can be read with text-to-speech or used with a braille device. This makes reading possible for people who are blind, low vision, physically disabled, or dyslexic. Interested veterans can find more information by visiting Bookshare's veterans site. People interested in Bookshare who are not veterans can visit Bookshare.org.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New in iOS 7 and Android KitKat: Customize Subtitles and Captioning


Both iOS 7 and Android KitKat include the ability to customize captions. Now both major mobile operating systems include the ability to customize movie and video subtitles system wide.. For iOS, the customization settings are under Settings > General > Accessibility > Subtitles & Captioning. From that menu you are able to change the appearance of subtitles of any video played through the default iOS video player. There are many options for customization including font, font size, font color, and background color. Android includes a similar feature that can also be accessed in the settings menu. These options are a welcome addition to mobile devices and can make subtitles much easier to see. It is great to see both Apple and Google improving accessibility on their mobile products.