2002 Conference Proceedings

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THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF PORTABLE NOTE-TAKERS

Presented by:
Glen Gordon
Chief Technical Officer
Freedom Scientific
11800 31st Ct. North
St. Petersburg, Fl. 33716
Phone: (800) 444-4443
Email: GlenG@FreedomScientific.com

The note-takers manufactured by Freedom Scientific have stood the test of time and have set the standards for this innovative form of technology. The purpose of our presentation is to discuss the history of our note-takers, explain how we have modified and enhanced our older generation of note-takers to develop our current models, and demonstrate our next generation of portable data management systems that will revolutionize how blind individuals perform their job related responsibilities, surf the web, and organize their personal data.

In 1986, the Braille 'n Speak became the world's first portable note-taking device with Braille key input and speech output. This device became very popular amongst blind students and blind employees. The Braille 'n Speak is used to take notes in the classroom and meetings, maintain an address book, perform standard and scientific calculations, and much more. The Braille 'n Speak was the first of five different models of a portable note-taking device to be manufactured by Blazie Engineering. Other models include the Type 'n Speak and the Braille Lite series. The Type 'n Speak has a QWERTY keyboard input and speech output. The Braille Lite was our first series of note-takers to offer Braille input, speech output with refreshable Braille output via an 18 or 40 cell Braille display. More than 50,000 of these units have been sold and since Blazie Engineering became a part of Freedom Scientific, a great deal of effort has been put forth to enhance the existing models and develop faster, efficient, and advanced portable note-taking devices.

The Millennium series is our current generation of note-takers that illustrate our ability to develop a dynamic, responsive, and innovative personal data management system. The Millennium series of note-takers include the Type Lite and the Braille Lite Millennium 20 and 40. The Type Lite has a Windows style keyboard and a 40-cell Braille display. The Braille Lite Millennium series comes in a 20 or 40 cell Braille display model. The Braille Lite Millennium is the first note-taker to introduce the concept of utilizing whiz wheels to navigate a document by line, by paragraph, or by sentence. The Millennium series of note-takers use compact flash technology for unlimited external storage, offer support for POP3 email, and they use the Doubletalk chip for speech output. The power of the Millennium series lies in their ability to be used as a stand alone note-taker or as a refreshable Braille display when connected to a personal computer containing a screenreader like JAWS(r) for Windows(r). Although Freedom Scientific has worked diligently to develop modern note-taking devices, we believe that our future involves combining our screenreading and note-taker technology to create a portable data management system that would revolutionize this reliable form of managing personal data.

The primary objective of Freedom Scientific's next generation of note-takers is to maintain the tradition of building on the experience that we have in developing products specifically for the blind but at the same time, tap into the universe of commercial PC applications. The units will have a new sleek design and are incorporating hardware components that have not yet been seen in any other note-taker. The unit will be Windows CE based and it will be designed with technical specifications very close to those products running the Pocket PC platform. The primary reason we selected Windows CE as a platform is because this would allow blind people to have access to the same "Pocket" applications as their sighted colleagues. Our next generation of note-taking devices will offer screen reading technology equivalent to what is used with a personal computer. We are excited about our next generation of note-takers because we are incorporating a web browser and the ability to play streaming audio. We have increased connectivity with personal computers, making it easier to manage and manipulate data. We expect to demonstrate this during the presentation.

If blind individuals are to remain productive in this very competitive age, there has to be a portable data management system that will meet all of their needs and provide versatility. We strongly believe that our next generation of note-takers will set the standard for a universal, dynamic, and easy to use portable data management system that will ultimately take the place of a laptop pc for blind individuals.


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