HP Announces First Handheld For The Blind

HP and VisuAide today showcased “Maestro” – the first mainstream handheld PC for the blind and visually impaired. Built on the HP iPAQ Pocket PC h4150 platform, Maestro is the most affordable and compact personal digital assistant available to the visually impaired.

Maestro features text-to-speech technology and a tactile keyboard membrane over its touch screen so the visually impaired can use essential information-access and communication applications without using a stylus.

Scheduled to begin shipping in September, Maestro takes advantage of wireless communication networks, such as Bluetooth wireless technology, and can be operated with or without an external keyboard (Braille or standard). Also, the device readily integrates other VisuAide or third-party applications offering users the latest innovations in handheld PCs.

“Our objective was to have a low-cost, highly portable mobile-computing solution available to a larger number of blind and visually impaired individuals,” said Gilles Pepin, president of VisuAide. “HP has demonstrated leadership in making technology accessible, and has provided strong support to VisuAide as we create cutting-edge assistive technology for the visually impaired using the HP iPAQ Pocket PC.”

Through its Accessibility Program Office, HP builds relationships with assistive technology companies such as VisuAide to meet its goal of designing, producing and marketing products and services that can be used by everyone, including people with disabilities.

Using their free membership in the HP Developer and Solution Partner Program (www.hp.com/dspp), assistive technology companies can use HP technologies, platforms and operating systems to create innovative solutions. The program also offers technical, sales and marketing support. “At HP, we believe that accessibility is the result of combined efforts,” said Michael Takemura, director, Accessibility Program Office, Personal Systems Group, HP.

VisuAide is one of the many leading assistive technology companies that use the HP iPAQ Pocket PC as a platform to create products for people with disabilities. VisuAide chose the iPAQ as their platform for its accessibility, efficient keyboard layout and central navigation key. The iPAQ allows for greater connectivity than the average Pocket PC via USB or serial port, and it uses a flexible, standard platform, Microsoft Windows CE.

Maestro follows Trekker as VisuAide’s second product using the HP iPAQ Pocket PC. Launched in 2003, Trekker revolutionized travel tools for the blind by using global positioning system (GPS) technology, talking digital maps and talking menus to provide real-time information on surroundings and pinpoint user location. The application can be integrated into the Maestro system. More information about HP and VisuAide’s collaboration on Trekker is available at http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/abouthp/accessibility/partnerships/visuaide101003.pdf.

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