Friday, March 9, 2012

Sense on the Edge-- my review of new products from Hims

Today I met with a rep. from Hims and got a look at the Braille Sense U2 and Braille Edge. I came away really impressed.

The Braille Sense U2 is a traditional notetaker with Perkins-style keyboard. It has 32 cells, a 1GHz mobile CPU and a 32 gb hard disk. It has a small screen on the top of the unit which a DB person could use as part of a face-to-face communication system. The screen can also be disabled if you are so inclined.

The unit comes with the usual suite of applications found on most blindness-specific PDAs. Word processor, planner, file manager, email and internet, database manager and games as well as media such as mp3 player and memo recorder. I obviously didn't check out any of the media functions but I looked at all other programs and they seemed straightforward and easy to use. The unit also comes with GPS and a client for Twitter, Google Talk, and MSN messenger. I really liked that they included a switch to lock the keyboard and braille display when not in use. I can't tell you how many times my Apex has gotten buttons pushed while in my bag.

The unit seems sturdy and well-made. It also has a vibration feature-- great for DB people. You can get alarms, and system alerts as vibrations instead of sound.
The unit has 3 standard A USB ports, an ethernet jack, as well as a VGA port, and SD card slot. It has built-in WIFI and supports USB 3g modems.

The Braille Edge is a new 40 cell braille display with some note-taker functions. While the Braille Sense U2 has synthetic speech output in addition to braille, the Braille Edge does not have any speech and uses only braille.

In addition to its use as a display, this unit has a notepad, alarm, count down timer, stopwatch, calculator, and scheduler functions. This unit does not come with either a screen or built-in vibration.
The Braille Edge can be used as a USB or bluetooth display. It also has a slot for an SD card for storing files.
Over-all, I was very impressed with these products. While I personally don't see myself relying heavily on blindness-specific PDAs due to their smaller size and limited available to run third-party applications, something like the Braille Sense U2 would be great for a person who is not interested in an iDevice, or other off-the-shelf option. I can see both of these products being of great benefit to students, and people first learning braille, or assistive technology.

The products are repaired in Austin, TX. Hims says that repair time is five business days. If the unit cannot be fixed during this time period, Hims will send the user a loaner unit until the repairs are complete.

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