Dolphin Newsletter - August 2005
- From Steve Palmer CEO and Noel Duffy MD.
- Pocket Hal in final stages of testing.
- Dolphin Tutor - reading and writing made easy.
- New Maps released.
- What's happening in Development?
- What's happening in Sales?
- Twenty years in the Access Technology business for Dolphin.
Earlier this month the Dolphin team supported the AHEAD (Association on Higher Education and Disability) conference in Milwaukee. The conference this year concentrated very much on how to convert hardcopy textual information into an accessible format for all. Dolphin was very pleased to demonstrate how EasePublisher and EaseReader could help with this conversion process and also chaired a series of presentations to detail our total range of solutions. The AHEAD organisation was so impressed by the range of solutions offered by Dolphin, that they have now endorsed Dolphin as the recommended solutions provider for creating and using DAISY talking books for all of their members.
The conference also gave Dolphin the opportunity to demonstrate some of the new products due for release next month. Dolphin Tutor and Dolphin Producer have both been developed with key education sectors in mind, and will offer new levels of support for anyone who is affected by dyslexia or needs to create accessible DAISY materials directly from Microsoft Word® documents. The reaction to these products was overwhelming, with delegates quickly recognising the new possibilities for total inclusion and enhanced learning for all.
Whilst at the conference I had the opportunity to speak at length with Ron Stewart. Ron is an internationally recognised expert on policy development and institutional change concerning technology, disabilities and adult education. He is the developer and director of Oregon State University's Technology Access Program and also serves as the Technology Advisor to AHEAD, (Association on Higher Education and Disability). In this capacity Ron is leading several initiatives focused on technology and adult education. In the next Dolphin Newsletter I will detail some of the key research findings and issues facing Ron.
I am sure that you have all been following the developments of Dolphin's latest Pocket Hal screen reader with interest.
Pocket Hal is a full screen reader, based upon the desk top edition of Dolphin's Hal screen reader. Pocket Hal offers users full speech support, as well as Braille support for the PDAs. This allows blind and low-vision users to access the same mainstream technology as that enjoyed by fully sighted users. Pocket Hal users will be able to access a word processor or spreadsheet, send and receive email or check their schedules on a calendar whilst away from the home or office and on the move. Pocket Hal gives access to Pocket Word®, Pocket Excel®, Pocket Outlook® and Pocket Internet Explorer®, as well as many other applications including MSN and phone services.
Recently reviewed within AccessIT, Pocket Hal is currently in the final stages of beta testing and will be formally released next month. When released, Dolphin and Dolphin dealers will be offering a range of PDA packages and Bluetooth devices for customers and incentives to existing Dolphin customers.
Due to be launched in September, Dolphin's first Education product to be available will be Dolphin Tutor. Dolphin Tutor has been designed to help people with reading and writing difficulties to create, read, view and check text. It works by adding a simple easy to read toolbar to your common Microsoft™ applications, such as Word®, Excel® and Internet Explorer.
The latest set of new and updated maps for versions 6.01, 6.02, 6.50 and 6.51 software are now available via the Internet Updater. They can also be obtained from the Dolphin website.
2 new maps and 2 updated maps are available for update from the Internet updater this month. These include:
- MSN Messenger 7 v1
- Internet Explorer Italian
- Microsoft Outlook 2000 / XP / 2003 v1.29
- Microsoft Word XP v2.12
We are busy putting the finishing touches to the first release of Pocket Hal, the screen reader for PDAs running Windows mobile. The release candidate is now undergoing extensive testing. Pocket Hal will be the first screen-reader for off-the-shelf PDAs, that supports Bluetooth and plug-in Braille input and output devices as well as Bluetooth or plug-in keyboards.
We also continue to develop our other well-known products. For instance, the Cicero OCR package will be released in September.
The next release of Orpheus, Dolphin's own speech synthesiser, recognises and speaks currencies, including euros, dates and times correctly. It is also having naturally sounding Swedish voices added and Dolphin is in the early stages of preparing natural Dutch voices for Orpheus.
The new Grade 2 Braille standards are being incorporated into Cipher and all Dolphin Products that support Grade 2 Braille.
We are extremely busy at present holding drop in days all around the country. Look out for new product presentations at a venue near you - call us on 0845 130 5353 to ask about drop in days in your area. PC prices are dropping - call the office for the latest offers! Get the latest Toshiba Laptop including DVD/CD-RW for £570. If you are registered visually impaired you can add Lunar, Hal, or Supernova to this package and pay just 4.81percent VAT. Call Kathy for a full price quotation.
Are you a registered Dolphin user? If you already have Supernova, Hal, LunarPlus or Lunar v5 or above you are entitled to a Dolphin Pen at a big discount. The Dolphin Pen lets you carry your Supernova, Hal or Lunar with you wherever you go. When you plug the Dolphin Pen into a new computer you can have your Dolphin product up and running just the way you like it in a matter of minutes, without the need for a full installation or extra configuration. All you need is the Dolphin Interceptor, which can be loaded straight from the pen. For more details, call us or check the web site.
In the international arena, we're delighted to see the release of EaseReader DAISY player in Polish. Thanks to generous government funding there is a thriving community of Supernova users in Poland who are all looking forward to reading their Supernova manual as a DAISY digital talking book. We're sure they'll find lots of other interesting books to read too! Members of our sales team are also looking forward to travelling abroad in September, supporting our international dealers at the Gitex exhibition in Dubai, UAE and the Ajutec exhibition in Porto, Portugal.
Macular Disease Society Conference 2005
Dolphin will also be exhibiting at the forthcoming Macular Disease Society Conference, which will be held on 24 September 2005 at Friends House, Euston, London.
This year's theme is Low Vision and includes talks on improving your residual sight, low vision aids, defeating glare, eccentric reading and finally a consultant ophthalmologist will be telling you of the latest developments with macular degeneration. There will also be a range of exhibitors of low vision aids and services for visually impaired people.
Tickets are £10, including a packed lunch and are available from either the Macular Disease Society's Andover office or by phone (01264 350551)
Dolphin will also be exhibiting at the forthcoming IDEAS Conference in Washington DC, USA. The conference will focus on education and employment solutions for total inclusion and legislative compliance. Dolphin will be demonstrating their range of access solutions and DAISY solutions at the conference.
The IDEAS Conference runs from 28th - 29th September, in the Washington DC Convention Centre. If you are planning to attend the conference, please drop by and see Dolphin in the ITG booth number 307 for a demonstration of Dolphin's latest range of education and employment solutions.
An extract of an article from AccessIT, by Paul Holliman
Next year, Dolphin Computer Access Ltd, a subsidiary of the Dolphin Group of companies, will celebrate twenty years in the field of access technology designed for people with low or no vision. Today, as was true in the early years of the company, Dolphin strictly adheres to a single key principle, namely to develop robust software solutions which are capable of making mainstream off-the-shelf IT accessible to its target audience. However, as a progressive company working to stay in the forefront of technology and making that technology work effectively for its customers, Dolphin is a very different kettle of fish from the company it was when it began life in 1986. Dolphin currently employs over fifty staff and has offices in Sweden and the USA, in addition to its UK base, out of which have come software products which have over time earned the company a worldwide reputation in its field.
Recently, Dolphin has once again been in the news by making two new product announcements. The first announced the arrival of the Dolphin Pen; the second hailed the forthcoming Pocket Hal screen reader designed for use with a standard commercial Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). Once again, the Internet started to carry discussion on the concepts behind these new products as soon as the product information became public knowledge, and this seemed to offer a most opportune time for us to look at these products and indeed more generally at the work currently going on in Dolphin today. Accordingly, I paid a visit to the Dolphin offices in Worcester to see for myself exactly what all the current talk is about.
So what is the Dolphin Pen and what are the issues associated with its use? The Dolphin Pen is simply a USB memory stick, resembling a conventional pen in appearance. Your choice of Dolphin screen access software is installed on the pen by Dolphin, and the pen is plugged directly into a USB port of a conventional Windows workstation. This approach has two key advantages for the user.
- The access product can be legally run on any workstation without having to pre-install it first. This means that as more organisations use desk-sharing, the pen user can work on any machine and not be confined to a dedicated one. Furthermore, this concept opens up job opportunities in IT support, since the pen user can move to a machine for which a reported fault needs to be addressed. Finally, any machine, such as those found in local libraries and places of education can be used by blind and partially-sighted users provided that the organisation is willing to make its machines "Dolphin Pen" compliant.
- The access product remains copy-protected yet still usable on any compliant machine, since the pen effectively behaves akin to a USB protection dongle.
But by far the most interesting development which I was able to get my hands on during the visit was Dolphin's Pocket Hal screen reader. In 1996, Dolphin stated that their aim was to be able to incorporate a full working implementation of their screen reader into a commercial PDA. At the time, I was firmly convinced that they were asking the impossible of themselves, due primarily to the limitations imposed both by PDA architecture and general system resources available. My doubts had been further compounded as I had watched mainstream PDA technology advance over the ensuing ten years, particularly as I noticed the increasing use of touch screens as the method by which sighted users communicate with today's devices. My fears were soon dispelled, but to understand why, we need to look briefly at some basic PDA concepts.
Very simply, Pocket Hal is entirely the same product as its desktop sibling but it can run on most CE compatible PDAS. Even the notion of map files associated with applications carries over into Pocket Hal, meaning that the entire PDA environment can be made accessible, including applications of the future. Dolphin has developed its own keyboard driver which allows external Bluetooth keyboards and Braille displays to communicate with the PDA, thus alleviating the need to use the touch screen. When I first heard of this breakthrough, my feeling was one of concern. Would it mean that in order to have Braille and Speech access, together with keyboard control of my PDA, I would need to be accompanied on my journeys by a lorry carrying the necessary external peripherals? I had already become disillusioned by the need to carry a certain popular dedicated PDA around in a rucksack! The simple answer was no! If, like me, you often wish to use Braille, all that is required is simply to use a hand-held device such as an EasyLink display from Optelec while you drive your PDA which is safely tucked away in your pocket! Alternatively, if you wish to use a conventional keyboard, you can simply use a pocket-sized folding Bluetooth qwerty keyboard, the choice is yours! The implications of this advancement in mobile access technology are enormous for Dolphin's target audience. There is a rapidly growing trend for mobile phone technology to merge with that of the PDA, producing what is being called the Smart Phone. As this technology becomes the norm, Dolphin will be well placed to offer full access to it for its customers using Pocket Hal.
No article about the work of Dolphin would be complete without making mention of the work that the company has been doing in the field of electronic books. The Digital Audio Information System (DAISY) format for books needs no introduction to readers of this publication. Dolphin's EaseReader player for DAISY books, together with its EasePublisher for easy preparation of books in DAISY format are in widespread use in many countries. Indeed, these products are now being deployed in mainstream education as it becomes evident that multimedia books can help the sighted person to study and read in addition to helping low vision users. With an estimated 20percent of the eleven year olds in the UK now falling below the expected reading level for their age, Dolphin's book solutions are beginning to make small inroads into reversing this worrying trend.