A new Braille Display is Coming, with Specialized Features for iOS
In what could soon be coming as the first of its kind, Humanware appears to be developing a new braille display and app for synchronizing notes with iDevices. In late April, an app hit the App Store called Brailliant Sync. According to the description by Harpo, the app is designed "for synchronizing notes between Gmail, IMAP and similar servers and Brailliant 14 Braille devices." This tells us 2 things. Humanware is working on a newer and smaller device to add to its line-up of Brailliant displays, and that this new device will have some sort of internal notetaking capabilities which can then be synced to external accounts through the iPhone. As of the May 1 app update, the only service that is not required to be entered manually is a Google account, though many services such as iCloud and outlook.com also use iMap. A search of the Google Play Store did not show the same app being available on Android, so this appears to be an Apple specific feature for now.
Humanware is also the only braille display manufacturer which is re-sold by Apple. At the moment, you can purchase the 32 cell model of the Brailliant BI, or the 40 cell version, directly from Apple. This seems yet another move toward merging mainstream technology with adaptive technology and could potentially boost the productivity for braille users in both work and education. While it's true that the user can utilize the braille display's connection that has a perkins style keyboard to iOS to input text, it's also true that the translator used by Apple is rather quirky. Having the ability to not only synchronize notes with your iDevice, but also with other external services, will allow the user to write with a more robust translator. It will also save battery life, as you are not having to maintain a bluetooth connection to your iDevice while taking notes.
No further information about the Brailliant 12 is available for public consumption. My guess, and it's only a guess, is that it could be something Humanware would bring out at the blindness conventions this summer. Harpo is also no stranger to braille and iOS. They designed MBMimic , an app which allows users of the models of the Mountbatten Brailler with bluetooth to transfer documents to the Mountbatten Brailler to iOS, among other things. It will be interesting to see what this project yields, and if other manufacturers of braille devices will also start to support more bridging of their adaptive technologies with those in the mainstream. As a braille user myself, I'm glad to see more developments on the braille front with iOS. With braille on narrator still requiring a lot of work, and BrailleBack not seeing any updates in well over a year, it's encouraging to see development continuing to move forward on at least one platform.
Nice to see new options and functionality for Braille displays.
What I would really like to see is such a portable and functional display with a QWERTY keyboard instead of a Braille keyboard. Although I know lots of Braille users like to input text and run their devices with Braille keyboard commands, I would guess that there are also lots of us (like me) who are used to using QWERTY keyboards and the associated commands with our desktop and laptop computers. Using a standard keyboard is much quicker for users like myself, plus it obviates the need to learn yet another paradigm of keyboard commands for controlling our devices, editing, etc.
The only devices I know of that have QWERTY keyboards are the old PacMate note takers that, by now, are fairly outdated.
In addition, the QWERTY type keyboard can also be used to input Braille using the 6 dot system, so this type of keyboard serves both functions. But a standard braille keyboard can only be used in braille input mode.
I wonder what other users think. Do you miss having a QWERTY keyboard on such devices/
I may be wrong, but I think the QT versions of the apex and the braille sense work with iOS as braille displays. As such, though, you can only use certain keys on them to enter commands just like a display with a Perkins keyboard. Maybe that's another wish for iOS11, to allow braille displays that have QWERTY keyboards to use the full keyboard. On a related note, they need to allow all the extra keyboard commands that work on the iPad to also work on the iPhone. I want to be able to command tab between apps like on my Mac, instead of having to press VO-h to bring up the app switcher. I wonder though, if any more QWERTY style notetakers will come out, since you can just connect a USB or BT one to a Perkins style one, like the ELBraille does. As for this new display and app, it does sound kind of interesting. I hope they also bring it to android. They do, after all, have a notetaker that runs that OS.
This page is now up on the HumanWare site.
The Braille Sense u2 QWERTY does allow you to type using the standard keyboard, you just have to insure that contracted braille input is not turned on. It's a bit flakey, and quite expensive, but that's your only QWERTY option that behaves as such with iOS. The BrailleNote Apex does have a QWERTY model, but you are required to type using an emulation of the braille keyboard. SDF, are dots 3, 2, and 1 respectively, while JKL are dots 4, 5, and 6 respectively.
The likelyhood that we will see a braille device with a QWERTY keyboard seems to be getting less. The new Braille Sense Polaris, which will also connect to iOS, should be out soon. It will only be available in a 32 cell version at first, though HIMS says they will have a smaller version at some point. Both of these have braille keyboards. When asked whether they will be releasing a QWEQY model, the answer was very non-commital. As far as I know, there are also no plans to release a QWERTY version of the BN Touch either, though I don't think Humanware has come out and actually given any sort of indication either way.