Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Google Smart Contacts May Help Monitor Blood Sugar in the Future


Google is rapidly developing new wearable technologies. Google's first attempt at wearable technology, Google Glass, has attracted a lot of press attention, but is still not available on the mass market. They also cost $1,500. Google's next foray into wearable technology maybe less flashy and less expensive, but may have a greater assistive technology impact.

Google's smart contact will sit on the eye like conventional contacts, but do much more. Google's initial idea is to measure blood sugar in tears for diabetics with electronics integrated into the contact. Instead of drawing blood to monitor blood sugar Google's smart contact would analyze blood sugar within tears. This system would eliminate or reduce painful finger pricks and also allow for more frequent testing. A small LED light inside the contact would then illuminate different colors depending on the blood sugar reading.

While this technology is still in development the idea is very exciting. If smart contacts could benefit diabetics maybe Google can adapt them to benefit people with other disabilities or conditions. Could a contact detect sound and give a visual notification to a deaf user? Imagine this, a smart contact for the deaf senses volume of sound and direction and notifies the user. A loud sound off towards a user's right side would illuminate the right LED very brightly while a soft sound off towards a user's left would dimly illuminate the left LED. While Google has only confirmed smart contacts are in testing for blood sugar testing it is exciting to think about the possibilities five or ten years down the line. Hopefully smart contacts for blood sugar monitoring will reach the market sooner than later and will assist people with diabetes.

Click read more to view a short video about Google smart contacts.


Microsoft and GW Micro Team Up to Offer Window-Eyes Free to Office Users


GW Micro, the makers of the Window-Eyes screen reader, has teamed up with technology giant Microsoft to offer Windows-Eyes to Microsoft Office 2010 and newer users for free. Windows-Eyes can read elements on the screen aloud allowing the blind, low-vision, and print disabled to have full access to their Windows PC. Window-Eyes can also output on-screen content to a Braille display for users who prefer Braille. This new partnership will increase the affordability of Window-Eyes and allow more people to benefit from its features. Window-Eyes normally costs almost $900 while Microsoft Office costs far less. GW Micro and Microsoft believe this new partnership will allow millions of new users to access their computers using Window-Eyes. Rob Sinclair, Microsoft's Chief Accessibility Officer says the following about this new program,
"By partnering with GW Micro in this endeavor we are demonstrating Microsoft's onging commitment to provide all of our customers with the technology and tools to help each person be productive in both their work and personal lives."
This announcement is very significant in the world of assistive technology. This deal will allow millions of users to increase the usability of their computers for free if they already own Microsoft Office. Owners of Microsoft Office 2010 or higher can download Window-Eyes by visiting WindowEyesForOffice.com and following the instructions on screen.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

PDF Expert 5: Well Designed PDF Management App with Text-to-Speech



PDF Expert 5 is a well designed PDF management app for the iPad. The app includes many useful features that allow you to read, edit, and annotate PDF documents easily. Unlike some other feature -rich apps, PDF Expert 5 does not feel cultured. The elegant design makes the app easy to use. PDF Expert is an assistive app because of its text-to-speech integration with the added benefit of extra features.

One caveat, while the app is good for non-disabled and dyslexic users, I would not recommend the app for VoiceOver users because of some VoiceOver problems I have found. Readdle, the maker of the app, should work on fixing these VoiceOver problems so blind and visually impaired can also benefit from the app. 

PDF files can be imported from numerous cloud storage services including Google Drive, Drop Box and SkyDrive or using the "open-in" feature of many other iOS apps. You can also view other file types, but the built in text-to-speech reader is only available for PDF documents. Files can be organized into folders or dragged and dropped into different sections.

PDF Expert's text-to-speech function works with any PDF with digital text. It does not work with PDF documents that have text within images. To read a compatible PDF, turn on text-to-speech in the reading mode menu and then press play. You can start reading at the middle or end of a page by highlighting a word and pressing "read from here." Text is read with the default iOS voice that many may recognize as the voice of Siri. Unfortunately, you cannot purchase additional higher quality voices. The app also requires you to re-enable text-to-speech every time you switch PDF documents. This is inconvenient if you switch are between PDF documents quickly.

Click read more below to continue reading about PDF Expert.

Viewing a PDF document is also a breeze. PDF Expert includes a quick scrolling mode and thumb nail view to allow you to easily navigate large PDFs. You can also change the background to sepia or night for easier viewing.

Aside from the text-to-speech features PDF Expert includes a number of editing and annotation features. Annotation options include highlighting, underlining, shapes, strike-through, stamps, signatures, and text. These annotation options are intuitive to use and you can easily can the color of highlights and other annotations. If you would like to add text to a PDF document you do not need to worry about overlapping any original text because the app automatically wraps your text so it will not overlap. Unfortunately, the app will not read your text annotations back to you using the built in reader, but you can always use the built in Speak Selection feature.  

PDF Expert also includes a review mode which allows you to edit and markup existing PDF documents. To learn more about this feature see the below video.

With PDF Expert's easy to use annotation and editing features and its built in text-to-speech reader PDF Reader is an ideal app for any iPad user who wants increase productivity. PDF Expert 5 is compatible with iPads running iOS 6 or higher and is available for $9.99 in the App Store.