An App for Low-Vision Users

Many of us are fortunate that we can pick up a menu, medicine bottle or business card and read it directly as is. Unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky. Ai Squared, a TriplePoint client, has developed products for the low-vision community for over twenty years. This week, they expanded their services with the launch of their iPhone application ZoomReader.

Designed specifically for anyone in need of visual assistance, ZoomReader takes a picture of any text, converts the text digitally using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and reads the text aloud through an integrated voice synthesizer. Standalone OCR devices are very expensive and not usually portable. The ZoomReader app provides a much less expensive on-the-go alternative to these devices, and helps make reading and seeing easier for people with low vision.

Since launch on Tuesday, ZoomReader reached the #2 Grossing App in the Lifestyle Section of the App Store and in the Top 200 Grossing Apps in the entire App Store.

Through TriplePoint’s efforts ZoomReader has been featured in the Wall Street Journal’s App Watch, WIRED as well as The Daily.

The Decisive Battle: How Video Games Truly Affect Us

The belief that the media we consume affects us negatively is not a new idea. The debate that arose twenty years ago when the Entertainment Software Rating Board (or ESRB) was created to inform consumers of the violent content of video games was far from the beginning. It started with the advent of organized society. Governments have a long history of banning, imprisoning, and even executing any author or journalist for writing articles and books deemed a “bad influence on the public.”

Today, governments threaten to unleash a firing squad that would shoot giant stickers on video game boxes stating that, “Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behavior.”

This movement arrives in the middle of the battle that was documented by the Wall Street Journal between Jane McGonigal, game designer and advocate for the benefits of video games on gamers in the real world, and Edward Castronova, Indiana University professor who questions the extent of Ms. McGonigal’s claims. Ms. McGonigal states that putting people in the role of “hero” in a video game makes players aware of their best selves. Professor Castronova claims that though we have already integrated video games into our lives, all media scholars agree that too much use points to the frivolity of games—that all games come to the same conclusion of valor, without showing players that everybody has varied views on what constitutes honor and morality.

I would otherwise jump to Ms. McGonigal’s side, using myself as an example of someone who has been bettered by games, someone who believes that video games can indeed do us good as a society. But that is too easy, and it will never banish the naysayers to the land of believers, no matter how hard Ms. McGonigal fights to prove that games can make us better people.

Instead, I will step out of the warzone, look away from what arguments are on the table, and look inside of myself. Why is my life better because of video games? Why am I confronted with my best self when I assume the role of [insert popular RPG character name here]? Why am I a better person now after I played [insert game here]?

I know my answers to those questions, and I will not explain them in detail here. This is why:

I believe that before we point fingers at video games or certain video game companies for promoting violent behavior, we have to remind ourselves that we are responsible for our own actions. We are responsible for controlling how the media we consume affects us. Parents are responsible for controlling how the media their children consume affects them. Whatever that entails is up to you to decide. You are reading this blog post, and you probably also read the Wall Street Journal articles by Jane McGonigal and Edward Castronova, and you are probably deciding for yourself right now what you think of all of them, which you choose to believe, and which one affected you the most.

You are in control. You are in control of how a video game affects you. Does it raise your moral values? Or does it threaten to lower them? Do you focus on the blood that results from the fight, or do you focus on the story, what your character learns in the game, and in turn, what YOU learn from the game?

You can choose to dismiss video games as an art or as a viable piece of entertainment. You can choose to connect yourself with the experience of a game, BE the character you played on screen, feel his or her emotions and learn what he or she learns. In any case, the good and bad in a video game are found within. How do video games truly affect us? The answer: you decide.

Wall Street Journal Looks Ahead to 3D Gesture Recognition

softkineticJerry A. Dicolo, writer for Dow Jones Newswires, wrote a fascinating piece in the Wall Street Journal about the emergence of 3D camera technology in consumer electronics. As computer manufacturers race to incorporate the latest touch screen functionality, another group of companies are working toward the next wave of interface technology, gesture recognition in 3D space.

Using sophisticated depth sensing camera technology, companies like Softkinetic are able to design interface software that reads a 3 dimensional image of a room. The specially designed software can then interpret the movment of a person into input commands. This technology will allow us to adjust the volume of a television with the twirl of a finger, or zoom in on an image by leaning forward. Theoretically it could become accurate enough for your computer or television to recognize individual faces.

Many people believe this technology will be available to the mass market within the next year, being implanted in televisions and sold as an accessory to video games. Right now there are two main impedements for this technology; the high cost of 3D cameras and the extensive processing power needed to interpret the immense amount of data from 3D cameras.

“What’s new here is that you can do it on a consumer-based device and you can do it well,” said Michael Steele, head of Nvidia Corp.’s visual computing business. “It’s not really ‘Star Trek’ anymore. It’s all really happening right now.”

Check out coverage of Softkinetic on KRON 4 News, and G4tv.