Talking / Audible Blind Technology Reviews and MP3’s


The following are short overviews and MP3 recordings of some of the talking and audible devices I’m experimenting with on the Blind Fishing Boat.  With the exception of the automobile reverse sensor, the descriptions and sounds found in this report come from assistive devices manufactured to assist people with limited or no sight.  For details on how each device is being utilized, refer to the page on my website entitled, “The Blind Fishing Boat”.

BAT Sonar:

The BAT is a handheld sonar device that can also be clipped to a white cane.  It has a built-in rechargeable battery and relies on an external speaker or headset to convey information.  It has two range settings that can be switched on the fly, with a range of up to 10 feet (3 meters).  The device provides continuous feedback through different tones, and conveys information about obstacles detected via changes in pitch. 
Strengths, presents a detailed audio portrait of your immediate surroundings. 
Weaknesses, requires an external headset or speaker, and has limited range. 
Link here to listen… Bat Sonar


The MiniGuide is a handheld sonar device that transmits data to the user through ever quickening vibrations.  The faster the vibration, the closer the obstacle.  When no obstacles are within range, the device is at rest.  Audio feedback (beeps) can be heard when an external speaker or headset is plugged into the back of the system.  It has four ranges to select from reaching out as far as 25 feet (8 meters), and depends on an internal non-rechargeable battery.  It’s quite small, and has a range of up to 50 feet on the water on calm days. 
Strengths, has a good range and sensitive feedback. 
Weaknesses, battery replacement may be a challenge although so far I’ve yet to experience battery failure. 
Link here to listen… Mini Guide

Automobile Reverse Sensor:

The waterproof sensor unit is about the size of a large dye, and the audio emitter portion at the other end of the wire is smaller than a deck of cards.  The sensor conveys information via three different beep tone rates based on obstacle detection at nine, six and three feet.  It takes its power from the 12V boat battery. 
Strengths, it offers easy-to-listen to tones for close-in work such as docking or coming along side of other boats. 
Weaknesses, limited range and even more wiring. 
Link here to listen … 

Columbia Talking Compass

A handheld compass that transmits information via a built in speaker when the unit is turned on and the button is depressed.  It uses an internal non-rechargeable battery.  It announces eight different points of the cardinal compass – north, north-east, east, south-east, etc. 
Strengths, it’s small and fits into a pocket easily. 
Weaknesses, the compass has to be held at the horizontal position to avoid sticking. 
Link here to listen … Columbia Compass

Reizen Precision Digital Compass:

This compass has a base and visual display, and buttons that give visual information such as the time.  It also has a button that will speak the cardinal points on the compass and degrees from zero to 360. 
Strengths, provides directional information in degrees. 
Weaknesses, has a slow recovery rate when the compass is being moved, and None of the other features are accessible to the non-sighted. 
Link here to listen… Digital Compass

ARC Home Automation Remote Control Beeping Locator Tags:

A unit the size of a remote which has four buttons, each associated with a specific tag.  When one of the buttons is pushed, the corresponding colour-coordinated tag omits a beeping tone.  The tags can be placed as far as 50-feet away (18 meters), but a fairly direct line of sight between the remote and the tag is essential for the tag to pick up the signal before it will start beeping. 
Strengths, the tags are tiny, (about the size of a book of matches), and the tone is fairly loud. 
Weaknesses, the tags take watch-type batteries and require the use of a small Philips screw driver when being replaced. 
Link here to listen… Talking Tag

Cobolt Speechmaster Colour Detector:>.

The unit is the size of a large remote and is powered by a nineV (fire alarm) battery.  Different colours are spoken when the unit is held firmly against an object and the button pushed.  It’s important that no external light is able to reach the electronic eye or the readings will be off.  It can also detect light such as a display light on a battery indicator and omits a beep tone when light is detected. 
Strengths, the unit has a clear speaking voice and get’s most colours right. 
Weaknesses, unless you are dealing with a solid colour and there is a field big enough to cover the entire opening that contains the electronic eye, the device will give false readings. 
Link here to listen… Colour Identifier

GPS Trekker:

The device consists of three components, the PDA, which is the size of a large remote, a GPS antenna, which is a bit bigger than a box of matches, and an external speaker which can be replaced with headphones.  Each of the three units has a built-in rechargeable battery, and can be recharged from a single AC power adapter that comes complete with a 3-way wiring harness.  All three components are also somewhat water resistant, however, I keep the PDA out of the elements.  The antenna conveys information to the PDA wirelessly, and the external speaker has an external volume control.  In free mode, which is the setting I use on the Blind Fishing Boats, the unit gives directions to a selected pre-recorded point of interest. 
Strengths, the unit gives clear and comprehensive directions. 
Weaknesses, the unit can’t tell you the direction you are pointing in until you have moved at least ten feet (3 meters), and if you are travelling too slow (under 2 kph or 1.2 mph), the unit gives random directions.  It is also limited to providing only a straight line route to the next recorded point of interest on the water; however, future upgrades to the unit will allow for the creation of tracks. 
Link here to listen…

That’s about it for now.  New compasses are in the process of being acquired, a new GPS navigation system that hooks to a GPS marine chart plotter has been acquired, and a new Marine Talker has also been acquired along with a smart traducer that should give synthesized speech access to water depth, temperature and speed over water.  (GPS provides speed over ground which can be different than speed over water if there’s a current).  Other enhancements are also under development, but it’s too early yet to speak of these.

1 Comment

  1. kevin gubb says:

    Hello Lawrence,
    Mel Haggar told me that you are waiting for a new talking GPS in the fall from Humanware. I was looking at getting a Trekker, but am curious to know what the new device is.

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