1999 Conference Proceedings

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VOICE DIARY - DESCRIPTION OF USABILITY

Personal Voice Assistants
Misgav Technology Park 20179 Israel
Tel: 972-4-990-6034
Fax: 972-4-990-6355
Email: pvadiary@actcom.co.il 
Web Site: www.voicediary.com

Overview

The VOICE DIARY, a specially designed electronic organizer for blind and visually impaired individuals, makes available to them, through voice messaging and cues, the same essential functions that sighted people use by means of appointment books, note pads, diaries, clocks, calculators, address and telephone books.

It is estimated that of the approximately 4 million adults with vision problems, only 36% are employed. One of the goals of blind associations and agencies is to increase this percentage by providing blind or visually impaired individuals with the means of functioning in the workplace. The advent of specialized technological devices and adaptive computer products has created opportunities to mainstream this population.

The VOICE DIARY is especially worthy of recognition for the following reasons:

  1. Helps normalize the lives of blind and visually impaired people.
  2. Assists blind and visually impaired students with organizing educational activities.
  3. Is designed specifically for optimal use by blind and visually impaired persons.
  4. Incorporates the concept of the electronic organizer, which is standard technology for the sighted.
  5. Is designed with intuitive logic to facilitate learning and use.
  6. Cassette tutorial and/or manual are sufficient for learning to use product.
  7. Regular software updates are available by means of computer interface.
  8. Cost is low compared to commercially available similar products that have fewer features.
  9. Technical support is available by E-mail or phone.

Extended Product Description

1. Helps normalize the lives of blind and visually impaired people.

The VOICE DIARY is a device that allows a blind or visually impaired individual to manage his/her daily organizational activities, both at home and work. It incorporates into one small, palm sized unit the functions that a sighted person uses regularly and effortlessly, by writing notes, keeping an appointment calendar, having a telephone directory, looking at one's watch, performing calculations, timing activities etc. The VOICE DIARY makes all these functions available through word and audible signals and voice user interface technology.

A blind employee can operate more effectively and quickly by having all these tools in one portable, lightweight unit rather than requiring multiple aids such as a Braille slate, memo recorder, talking or Braille watch, talking calculator, Braille timer etc. It is significant that several of the VOICE DIARY functions are not readily available to the blind through any other instrument. For instance, the address and telephone directory also tone dials phone numbers; memos can be recorded and programmed to announce on scheduled days and time.

For situations in the workplace when a VOICE DIARY user does not want the voice functions to distract others, the unit comes with an earphone port.

2. Assists blind and visually impaired students with organizing educational activities.

The intent of the Amaricans with Disabilities Act and recent trends has been to integrate the disabled, including the blind, into regular work and educational settings. Attending classes on time, jotting memos, keeping track of exam schedules, calculating, timing, and memorizing are required in organized, regimented educational institutions. The VOICE DIARY is an excellent tool to assist in carrying out these functions.

3. The VOICE DIARY is designed specifically for optimal use by blind and visually impaired persons.

Unlike many aids, the VOICE DIARY is not an electronic organizer that has been modified for use by the blind or visually impaired. It was created and designed from the ground up for the blind and tested by blind users. The features that distinguish it from modified units include:

4. Incorporates some of the concepts and features of electronic organizers, which are standard technology for the sighted.

Sighted people use electronic organizers for conducting all aspects of their lives. They are usually lightweight, small, may interface with computers, include a wide range of memory, have calculators, timers, calendars, clocks, telephone directories and even tone dialing. The commercially available units all require the user to view a small screen to access the stored information. While the VD provides these same functions, it eliminates the need to view the information.

With the VOICE DIARY, an electronic organizer, those who are blind or visually impaired have available a device used by sighted people, promoting commonality. Furthermore, since many of the features are universally useful and the technology is readily available, the VOICE DIARY has optimized its value by incorporating standard electronics into a unit that is uniquely suited for blind or visually impaired.

5. VOICE DIARY is designed with intuitive logic to facilitate learning and use of the unit.

Having a keypad that is modeled on the telephone keypad is the most obviously "user-friendly" feature of the VOICE DIARY. Furthermore keys are arranged so the most frequently used ones are easiest to push. Examples of its logical features include:

6. Cassette tutorial and/or manual are sufficient for learning to use the Voice Diary.

A clearly written and spoken cassette teaches the user the fundamentals of operating the VOICE DIARY. For those with some vision, the manual is printed in a bold easy to read format and a quick reference manual is included. Once the basic operations are mastered, which takes between 3 to 6 hours, the learning curve for comfortable daily use of the Voice D is approximately 15 hours.

7. Software updates are available approximately every 6 months by downloading files from the developer's web site.

Continuous updates are being designed for the VOICE DIARY in response to users' requests and suggestions. Many of the initial users of the VOICE DIARY are active, involved individuals who have identified specific uses for the unit. A group of these users is currently establishing a Chat Room on the Internet to share their experiences with the unit. When individuals purchase the VOICE DIARY, they can also purchase a Communications Kit that includes the software and cables for connecting their VOICE DIARY to their PC to download updates. Those who do not purchase the Kit can return their units to the distributor, who will update the unit for them. The Communication Kit also allows users to upload the data recorded on their VOICE DIARY to their computers.

8. The cost of the VOICE DIARY is reasonable compared to similar products for the sighted.

Electronic organizers range in price from $ 29.00 to over $400.00, depending on the features they offer. The VOICE DIARY comes with all the following capabilities and features and costs only $299.95:

9. Technical support is available by E-mail and phone.

The creators of the VOICE DIARY, who are located in Israel, conscientiously respond to all questions about operating the units. Until the question is answered, they carry on a dialogue through E-mail or phone. Purchasers can call their distributor with inquiries as well. Frequently asked questions with answers and explanations appear on the Web site, www.voicediary.com.

Product Availability

The VOICE DIARY is available from distributors located throughout the world. Contact Voice Diary Ltd. for a distributor near you.

The VOICE DIARY is currently available in English, Hebrew and Hungarian. Adaptations to the other Western European languages will be undertaken along with the preparation of the business plan to Europe. Arabic, Japanese and Eastern European languages will come next.

QUOTES FROM CUSTOMERS LETTERS

"I would like to thank you for designing and marketing a product that I have been needing for the better part of ten years. It has served me extremely well at home and on the road. I cannot say enough good about it. In fact, it is so good that it is definitely worth many, many times more than the retail price." Michael Tyo, Adams, NY

"I acquired my VOICE DIARY in November 1997 and don't do anything without it. I use its daily memo feature and especially it's phone feature. Eighty phone numbers, and even my prescription numbers and pharmacy phone numbers, are listed under different Headers. When I want to call or renew a prescription, I just put the VOICE DIARY next to the phone and speak the name. The VOICE DIARY does the rest. I've demonstrated it at the Lighthouse of Broward County, where I teach, and everyone is very excited about it. I am very enthused about it and what it can do." Phillip Goldstein, Coconut Grove, Florida

"Dear sirs. I have tested the VOICE DIARY for several weeks and I am very satisfied and thank you for the fantastic diary." Gisli Helgason, Iceland

"As a totally blind individual, I have been searching for many years for a truly portable device to serve as a talking calendar, alarm clock, timer, calculator, stop-watch, phone book and memo recorder. While there is an abundance of these devices for sighted people, the blind have had to use either separate units or larger note takers to accomplish these tasks.

That was until the VOICE DIARY, sold by ILA. With it, I can organize my memos and reminders by date and time. or simply have general notes. I can have my important phone numbers at my fingertips for me to find using my voice. Since I need to take several medications, I can set recurring alarms, as well as single ones for other tasks. I no longer need to carry a separate timer, alarm clock, calculator anda memo recorder. I can do it all with the VOICE DIARY.

I feel it's about time a device like this was produced for people who are blind. We really needed it and I thank ILA for bringing it to us." Alice Lockwood, Brentwood, NY

"The VOICE DIARY has added an entire new dimension to my life. I can now maintain a more structured schedule of my appointments and meetings with friends. What I used to carry 4 different devices for I can now just carry my VOICE DIARY and have it all at my fingertips. I especially like the Phone Book feature because as a blind person I have many numbers to remember and my VOICE DIARY definitely lightens my load. I would not trade it in for anything!" Tom Baccanti, Anaheim, CA

"From: Dr. Peter A. Torpey
Subject: The VOICE DIARY
Date: March 9, 1998

I am a Research Fellow at the Xerox corporation whose responsibilities include managing an image-processing and modeling team to develop new ink-jet products. Although I had some functional vision when I was younger, my eyesight has deteriorated to the point where I only perceive lights and shadows. I currently make use of a variety of adaptive aids both at home and work. These include PC-based speech synthesizers and Braille displays, the Xerox/Kurzweil (now Telesensory) reading machines, digital and analog recording devices, and a sub-notebook personal digital assistant.

I have been using the VOICE DIARY now for several months and have found it to be a remarkably useful and versatile device. In fact, it has replaced the sub-notebook computer which was specially adapted with speech output and a variety of editing and calendaring features for the blind that I have been using for several years now. The VOICE DIARY is small enough to fit in my pocket, and makes it easy to set up and manage my busy calendar of meetings, keep a collection of to-do notes, and to have a phone list readily accessible through either its keyboard or voice recognition functions. The VOICE DIARY is also considerably less expensive than other sub-notebook or custom devices developed for use by the blind. I have been very impressed with the features provided by the VOICE DIARY, as well as with its design and user-interface. This is truly a unique device that offers affordability, functionality, and portability.

In addition, the company should be commended for its technical support, openness to customer input and suggestions. They have made a real commitment to dealing with questions and/or problems quickly and effectively. I look forward to future improvements and extensions to this multi-purpose device as technology advances and the manufacturer has the opportunity/resources to bring improvements to their customers."


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