Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
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GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: [via Italian translator] Hi, this is Giuseppe di Grande of Biblos, the Braille word processor, and this is Assistive Technology Update.
JOSH ANDERSON: Hello and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs. I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 380 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to for release on September 7, 2017.
Today we are going international. All the way from Italy, Giuseppe di Grande will be on our show talking about his Biblos software, fully accessible word processing program that is able to convert to braille and also to tactile as needed, but I won’t spoil that for you. I’ll get into the interview in a little bit.
We are going to have Amy Barry on from BridgingApps to talk about the Clarity Money app. We are also going to talk about a few fun devices coming down the pipeline, including alter ego, a device that can read what you are saying without you actually sing it. And also some artificial intelligence that is able to read.
Getting the word out about assistive technology is one of the main goals of the INDATA Project here at Easter Seals Crossroads. One way we do that is in this podcast that you are listening to right now. Another way we do it is by offering full day trainings. We do five of these a year. Our latest one was just completed last week in which Brian Norton and myself talked about the Internet of things, wearables, and smart homes and how they can help folks with disabilities. If you would ever like to ask is one of these trainings, you can go to EasterSealsTech.com/fulldayarchives. There you can watch the video recording of the entire training. You can access the PowerPoint and any other training materials available from those. If you’re ever interested in attending one of our full day trainings, a list of upcoming trainings will be available on the website.Here before too long, we will be posting a list of the five trainings that will be available for 2019. You can attend those either in person or online.
Are you looking for more podcast on assistive technology? Do you have assistive technology questions that you would like answered? Are you very busy and only have one minute at a time to listen to podcasts? Check out our sister shows, ATFAQ, assistive technology frequently asked questions, and we try and occasionally succeed in answering your assistive technology questions. Or Accessibility minute, a one-minute snippet telling you about the newest and greatest things in assistive technology. You can download these wherever you get your podcast.
We could all use a little bit of help when saving money, paying bills, and just budgeting, stretching that dollar as far as we can. Today Amy Barry is on with an app worth mentioning from BridgingApps. The app is called Clarity Money and it helps you input what you have coming in and making sure that that is less than what you have going out, help you save for things to help you pay those bills, and help you figure out where exactly your money is going. So without further ado, take it away, Amy.
AMY BARRY: This is Amy Barry with BridgingApps, and this is an app worth mentioning. This week’s featured app is called Clarity Money. Clarity Money is a free app to help you save money, plan your budget, check or spending and expenses, keep watch on your credit score, and manage all of your linked accounts in one easy place.
Clarity Money allows users to connect to their banking institution. This feature should always be approached with caution as it is delicate information. Clarity Money is solid and secure. Our users have peace of mind when connecting to their bank institutions to track financial information. We consider this app a great tool for tracking and creating a budget. When it is connected to your bank institution, they will catalog your activity. This will show your balance, chargers, deposits, and there are several sections that display your transactions differently. One of the most useful sections is listed as spending for the month. This section gives a breakdown on what has been spent in certain categories. Categories include food, health, travel, shopping, bills. This serves as a great tool to reference the user spending habits.
A highlight feature of the app is the savings section. This allows you to set up a savings goal and automate the process. Goals can be set with ape specific targets such as occasion, I do have the control as to when a set dollar amount will be set aside. For example, you may set five dollars every week to be moved into your savings account. The account which is used may be a savings account you already possess from a banking institution, or you may use the option to create a savings account in the app. Clarity Money app’s savings account is FDIC insured and is connected with the Wells Fargo Bank.
We found Clarity Money to be an easy to use financial tool. The app is useful in creating a reasonable budget, as it helps the user learn their spending and saving habits. His app takes a security very seriously, and we are comfortable connecting our banking information to track progress. Clarity Money may benefit young adults during transition, veterans, older adults, individuals who struggle with saving money, and more. Clarity Money is available for free at the iTunes and Google play store. The app is compatible with iOS and Android devices. For more information on this app and others like it, visit BridgingApps.org.
JOSH ANDERSON: I found an interesting article over at MIT news about some research and new products coming out of their research department and their media lab. One of the things is called the alter ego project. What this is, is it’s a worn device on the face that will actually sit there and pick up the neuromuscular movements in our face as we kind of think of things and do not say them out loud. So if you think of talking to yourself, adjusting words in your head. These things are undetectable to the human eye, but they are actually making a machine that, through its learning system, can correlate those particular signals with different words. That also includes bone conducting headphones, that will transmit information back to the user, so essentially they could ask questions without mouthing the words and have those answers come back to them. This is still in the research and development stage, but it looks like it could be almost 90 percent accurate from these different things. Very cool. It uses some neat technology. I could see where this could easily help some folks with different needs, different assistive technology uses, and I could also see how this could be used by folks to cheat the house in Vegas as well. We will see which one it goes to. Very neat article. We will put a link to that in our show notes.
Staying along the same lines as the last story, we have a story over at ScienceMag.org that talks about a lip reading artificial intelligence that’s being developed. If you think about lip reading, a lot of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing use this in order to get context to understand a little bit more about what the speaker is trying to convey. Or if you like to use YouTube, you probably watch some of those bad lip reading videos which are definitely fun and keep us entertained. This program that they are trying to do is actually trying to figure out exactly what people are saying to us by the movement of their lives. It looks like from their research, they took a bunch of YouTube videos and different situations, kind of put them all together and use that to have the computer sit there and be able to understand.
According to the research here in the article, it looks like it misidentified less than 50 percent of the words, which actually for liberating is pretty good. A lot of folks can actually do a little bit better, but that’s with context, body language and those kinds of things, and using the hearing they may or may not have left. A pretty cool article. It’s amazing the different things they are trying to do with artificial intelligence and the different users it could have for assistive technology. Of course, it also does say here, who knows if they could also be used for assistive technology or by spies, or to finally figure out what footballers are saying on the pitch while they are playing.
Go ahead and check our show notes, and we will put a link over to the story.
So folks, just a little disclaimer it on today show because we are doing things a little bit differently. Since Giuseppe is actually talking to us from Italy and in full Italian, we’ve had to edit a little bit of the show today. A lot of what you’re going to hear is me asking questions and then Pedro, who is doing the interpreting for us, is going to be answering those questions. We’ve cut out a little bit of the back and forth just to make it flow a little bit easier and to be easier to hear. Whenever you do listen to the interview, you will hear a little bit at the beginning and end of Giuseppe’s actual answers, but most of it will be myself and the interpreter talking. I just wanted to get that out of the way before we start the show.
Let’s go ahead and get it started, and we hope you enjoy.
JOSH ANDERSON: Folks, on today show we are very excited to have Giuseppe di Grande all the way from Italy. He’s going to be on the show to talk about a software program he developed called Biblos, which will allow you to translate text into braille along with a lot of other cool features. Mr. di Grande was nice enough to invite his friend Pedro Zeruda to translate for us today. I’m really looking forward to learning more about them and the software. Mr. di Grande, welcome to the show.
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: [Translated] Thank you for having invited to me. I’m Giuseppe. Thank you to all the members of the audience.
JOSH ANDERSON: Thank you so much. Giuseppe, if we could start off, just tell our listeners a little bit about yourself.
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: I am 45 years old. I am from Italy, specifically I live in the island of Sicily, southern part of Italy. The name of the place where I live is Avola. My history and the use of computers is very long. I started using computers when I was 12 years old, and ever since, I have not stopped being close to computers. I love computers. In 1996, I became blind. The big difference between the time before that and the time after that is that, when I could see, I did animation and graphic things.
He says that he is almost like Robert. His mind has been shaped by computers. His actions and so forth, it is very important in his life.
Do you want to ask anything else concerning his professional career?
JOSH ANDERSON: What I would really like to talk about is the Biblos software. But first let’s talk about what led you to create the software.
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: He created Biblos in 2004. It was the continuation of software he had created in 1988 for MS-DOS. He says that he is a great lover of reading; therefore, he scanned books at that time. Scanning at that time implied a lot of mistakes. He wanted to develop software to automatically correct those mistakes in the scanning of the book.
In 2004, he created Biblos. Not long later, he made the possibility of transforming with Biblos text into audio. And in 2007, he had a very wonderful idea of making it possible to use Biblos to produce braille and have braille embossed on paper. He wanted to produce braille in the way he thought that braille should be produced.
In 2009, he added the capability of producing tactile drawings, tactile graphics. In 2010, he developed Biblos to be able to manage reading and writing classical Greek. Classical Greek is taught in secondary schools in Italy.
Biblos kept being upgraded up to the version that you can have right now.
JOSH ANDERSON: What version is it on now?
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: Now the version is number five. Specifically today, we have reached 5.19. The important thing is from version 5, Biblos is totally free of charge for users anywhere in the world.
JOSH ANDERSON: Very nice. That’s a lot of features to get on something that’s completely free. I did want to know, is Biblos only for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, or is it for anyone?
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: He says that his philosophy in software development — and Biblos is not the only software that he has developed — he wants to make it fully accessible for people who are blind or vision impaired, but also usable by anyone. In Italy, for instance, it is being used in school by regular teachers of blind students, and it is also being used in the offices of blind associations.
He is very aware that in his program development, he misses some attractive features for people who can see because that is not easy for a blind programmer to do. Anyway, he wants to make something that is usable by excited as well.
JOSH ANDERSON: For sure. We are very big on accessibility and universal design here, so that’s really great. I know you said it was used in schools and by all kinds of different users. Are there certain things the users are saying about the software, pieces they really like?
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: When blind people have the opportunity to see Biblos for the first time, they get impressed how many features it has. And his development of the software, usability is something that is very important. He wants to make software which is usable for people who are very capable and want to have more and more things, so he wants to have the other possibility for them to enhance their possibilities. But at the same time, he wants that it should be simple enough for people that have different capabilities and different value in approaching it.
JOSH ANDERSON: Very nice. Talking about that, I looked through your website and actually so where you could download some of the JAWS and NVDA scripts to make it work even better. That’s very nice to include those for the users.
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: Those scripts are things that he concentrated on in the past, but now he concentrated mainly in Biblos. In Biblos, he also does scripting to accurately use JAWS or NVDA with Biblos.
JOSH ANDERSON: There are tons of features in that, but I know just from what you’ve said so far that that’s deafly not the end. Tell me, what’s in the future for Biblos? What do you have in the works for the next iteration?
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: Talking about the future, he would like to make two paths. First of all, there is the path that is already there. The second one is more what the users [Inaudible] that could be done in the future. Then you have new possibilities. My idea, my desire has always been to develop an OCR engine in Biblos. He’s not sure, but he thinks that the current Windows 10 should offer the possibility for people to develop an OCR which would work inside Windows 10.
The first thing that I would like to add. The second one would be the possibility of making Biblos sensitive to speech so that Biblos would react to speech commands. The dream path of the future of Biblos is to develop Biblos for Mac, but he’s very aware that it would not be easy to transfer Biblos into a totally different platform and to rewrite half 1 million lines of code.
JOSH ANDERSON: I imagine it would not.
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: This is what he says that it is a dream.
JOSH ANDERSON: That sounds really good. Let’s hope that maybe we get there someday, but I realize that’s a lot of code to try to rewrite.
Giuseppe, can you tell me a story of someone’s life who has been affected by your work? It could be by the Biblos software, by something else you developed. It sounds like you have a lot of great ideas and probably helped a lot of folks. Tell me a story about one of them.
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: For me, one real jewel in Biblos development is in the development of the possibility of making tactile graphics. Some years ago and the time when Biblos was Biblos 2 or 3, there was a blind person who purchased Biblos — at the time it was a shareware version — to produce braille with his braille printer. The person had had a child who was either in kindergarten or in primary school. Once the child came home with a drawing he had made. Giuseppe says he thinks it represented Batman. Obviously the father who was blind could not participate in the enjoyment of his son who had made that drawing. The idea of taking the sheet his son presented to him, putting it on the scanner, and then to manage it with Biblos and had it printed on paper with his braille printer. This father told him that he was very happy when he had under his fingers the embossed drawing that his son had brought from school.
JOSH ANDERSON: That is really cool. That’s something a lot of folks don’t think about, but sometimes one your kid brings home a picture, being able to actually see that. It’s very neat that the software was able to help him do that.
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: He says that it was also very beautiful for him.
JOSH ANDERSON: I imagine. Giuseppe, if our folks want to find out more about your download Biblos, how would they do that?
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: In order to go to Biblos, you have to go to his website which is www.diGrande.it. In order to support Biblos users, he has created a Facebook group. It is enough to put “Biblos braille word processor” and that you can have the main window and also the specific support platform.
JOSH ANDERSON: Very nice. Gentlemen, Giuseppe, page oh, I cannot thank you guys enough for coming on the show today, Pedro for doing our interpreting, Giuseppe for talking about Biblos. Very cool software. If you guys want to go out and download that and check it out, we will put it in the show notes the different ways to get there. Gentlemen, thank you again for taking time out of your day to talk to us today.
GIUSEPPE DI GRANDE: Okay, thank you very much.
JOSH ANDERSON: Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Are you looking for a transcript or show notes? Head on over to our website at www.EasterSealsTech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. For more shows like this, plus so much more, head over to AccessibilityChannel.com. The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project, Easter Seals Crossroads, or any of our supporting partners. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana. Thank you for listening, and we’ll see you next time.
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