Dolphin Newsletter - January 2006
- Happy New Year!
- 20th Anniversary.
- From Steve Palmer and Noel Duffy.
- Latest Product News.
- New Maps released.
- What's happening in Development - from John Rye.
- What's happening in Sales - from Steve Bennett.
- Staff News.
Firstly, we wish all our users a very Happy New Year! 2005 was a very positive year for Dolphin in terms of both technical and product development success. We have also made considerable investment in screen reading and magnification technology both for current products and for new platforms. The latest Version 6.53 product suite continues to be very well received by our customers, with many of the new features being introduced as a direct result of customer feedback. The Dolphin Pen, released in 2005 has set new standards in portable access software, with many schools, colleges and libraries now supporting people choosing to use the Dolphin Pen. Pocket Hal continues to go from strength to strength, with the latest US English release being announced at the recent ATIA Conference in Florida
Dolphin has also been busy working in other areas, with many new products to support the print impaired. We released Dolphin Tutor in 2005, a new software package to aid reading and writing, which is being widely praised within Special Education sectors. 2006 will see Dolphin Tutor being made available in several different languages. In December we also released Dolphin Producer, the quickest and easiest DAISY digital talking book creation tool available. From text documents a fully synchronised text and audio DAISY book can be created at the push of a single button, maintaining the original format and layout, including images. Dolphin Producer will also be available in many new languages during 2006.
EaseReader and EasePublisher also saw significant product improvements in 2005, with the introduction of a TTS facility in EaseReader, and increased support for NISO and Bookshare books. EasePubllisher also included support for UTF-8 characters.
2006 is a significant milestone for Dolphin. Established in October 1986, as Dolphin Systems for the Disabled, Dolphin was one of the first adaptive software company's in the world and this year is Dolphin's 20 th anniversary. You can look forward to many celebrations throughout the year as Dolphin continues to break down the barriers for visually impaired and print impaired computer users around the world.
This month Noel and Steve visited the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference in Orlando, Florida.
This conference is rapidly catching up with CSUN as a major venue for show casing new products as well as meeting up with dealers and key influencers within the industry. All the major players in assistive technology were there and what was doubly exciting was the level of interest in our access products and print impairment products. Pocket Hal and Dolphin Producer really caught the eye of the attendees and after Paul Thompson, supported by Ron Stewart of Oregon State University, made his conference presentation, the exhibition stand heaved for the remainder of the day with school and university delegates.
The underlying theme of the conference was the soon to be introduced National Instructional Material Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). For those of you who are unaware of this: the US Government have undertaken to drive the educational publishers in the US to make their K12 material available in an electronic format to approved entities for use by eligible children. This is a massive project and like all big new projects, the enormity of the task is just beginning to dawn on all the key parties: the publishers themselves who have to make the content available in a NIMAS format, the authorized entities who have to validate the content, the regulators who have to interpret and implement the legislation, the standard makers who have to deliver a tight standard, the company responsible for the infrastructure and the thousands of schools and resource centres across the US who have to get the content, using this new delivery method, to the children. The mood at the end of the three day NIMAS session was generally optimistic that it would all happen by the end of the year, but that it was going to be a major challenge.
Version 6.53 of Supernova, Hal, Lunar, Lunar Plus and Pocket Hal are now released. Supernova v6.53 now includes speech support for Windows Media Centre Edition, Dutch literary Braille tables, additional text information in Excel, increased Java support and the new versions of literary Braille for UK grade 1 and 2 have been added.
Earlier this month Dolphin also announced the release of two new products:
Following the growing success of Pocket Hal in the UK, the product has now been released in North America. Pocket Hal is a full screen reader developed specifically for standard, off the shelf, PDA's and offers blind and low vision computer users access to the same levels of technology, at the same regular prices, as that enjoyed by their sighted colleagues.
It provides users with access to everyday Windows® based desktop data and applications via a Windows Mobile based PDA.
Pocket Hal can be used with most of the popular PDAs found in retail stores, and offers users an effective alternative to the traditional handheld Braille devices. With the flexibility to choose a range of wireless input and output devices you can decide whether to use the Braille or keyboard options.
What can you do with Pocket Hal?
- Check and send emails on the move
- Read SMS text messages
- Access to Calendar, Contacts and To-Do lists
- Read, review and edit Word and Excel documents
- Play MP3 files on the move
- Synchronize files to your PC
January also saw the release of Dolphin' latest Cicero version 3.01 hard copy text reader. Cicero turns your computer and scanner into a reading machine. Printed text documents that are placed onto the scanner can then be translated into speech, Braille or simply held as a text document which can be adjusted, edited, saved and printed out.
The latest Cicero version 3 still maintains its simple to use operation, and user hotkeys for scanning and reading, as well as zoom features and colour changer options, but now includes many new features and improvements, such as:
Up-rated OCR engine
Cicero now incorporates the Abbyy Finereader Professional 7.0 Optical Character Recognition (OCR) engine. Cicero now offers outstanding levels of text recognition and accuracy. An excellent time saving solution that allows you to convert and edit a variety of paper and electronic files, including magazines, newspapers, letters, books, faxes and copies.
In recent reviews in PC Magazine, Abbyy Finereader scored 99.7 percent for OCR accuracy.
Improved User Interface.
Whilst Cicero users are still able to use all of the recognised keyboard hotkey commands, Dolphin have introduced a revised graphical user interface which now includes new icons. Users will find the new icons more intuitive and sighted users will also find them more attractive.
Increased language support
Cicero is available in UK and US English as well as Swedish and Polish, but now has OCR support for 179 recognition languages, including 36 languages with dictionary support.
The latest set of new and updated maps for version 5.21, 5.30 and version 6.01, 6.02 and 6.03 software are now available via the Internet Updater.
New and Updated maps for v6.51:
- Microsoft Office 2000 and XP Icelandic
- Microsoft Word XP German
- Microsoft Word XP Swedish
- Microsoft Powerpoint XP
- Eudora v6 and v7
New releases abound in this issue. Versions 6.53 of Supernova, Hal, Lunar, Lunar Plus and Pocket Hal have now completed development and are released. For screen access, our attention moves to the next major release, version 7.
The updated, improved and easy-to-use Cicero document scanning and reading system has also completed test and is now released. Recognition accuracy of the new Cicero is greatly improved over all previous versions.
Version 2.05 of Dolphin Pronouncer TTS and Pocket Pronouncer TTS is released alongside version 6.53 of Supernova, Hal, Lunar Plus and Pocket Hal. Pronouncer 2.05 has improved cut-down voices for portable applications and improved operation with SAPI4 and SAPI5.
Work on a Swedish Pronouncer voice, Anders, is in progress and will be incorporated into next release. Work also continues incorporating new UK Grade 2 Braille standards into all Dolphin Products supporting Grade 2 Braille.
Many more new and exciting developments particularly in the area of portable access are underway at Dolphin. Watch this space for more news.
The recent free update for all version 6.50 customers has provided significant benefits for many at no additional cost. For some speech access to Windows Media Edition will provide opportunities to combine the PC with radio and TV input into one device. Windows Media Edition also has the added functionality to record TV and Radio to the hard disk of your computer by remote control or keyboard selection. It is very exciting to see this new platform now accessible to all version 6 speech customers.
Cicero 3 which includes a new OCR (Optical Character Recognition) engine from Abbyy became available during January. Users will instantly be familiar with the interface which has received a face lift but retained the same functionality and keyboard short cuts. What is new is the superb recognition of even more complex pages of text from basic low budget scanners. With the switch of one button recognition can be altered from row to column making sure each document is read extremely accurately with your chosen background, highlight, speech and speed. We have slightly altered the price to reflect the increased costs for the new scanning engine but existing Cicero customers will find a discount of over 50percent from the new product cost.
Colleagues Dave Salisbury (Dolphin Dave) and Raj Taheem joined me at the British Education Technology show during January to demonstrate all the Dolphin products for the four days of the exhibition. The Dolphin stand was particularly busy with everyone meeting huge number of teachers and support staff who gave us some wonderful feed back on products.
Looking forward to next month we hope to release new languages with Dolphin software including Welsh.
BETT, the UK's Educational Technology Show took place earlier this month in London. The Dolphin team were in attendance as usual, showing the latest access software developments as well as their latest solutions for the print impaired. We were very pleased to be able to use the BETT show as the formal launch for Dolphin Producer, our latest Digital Talking Book creation tool. Cicero version 3.01 was also released at the BETT show.
As always, it was very well attended by education professionals from the UK and overseas, with visitors from as far away as Sweden and New Zealand. Dolphin's latest Tutor and Producer products were particularly well received - where their literacy benefits were quickly recognised.
Congratulations go to Jonas Kullenwall and his wife Martina, on the birth of their daughter Ella on 18th January. Jonas is a development engineer who works on the DAISY products, in the Swedish office.