HIMS NorthEast sales representative Jeff Bazer gives us a overview of the Braille Sense Polaris, the Blaze EZ Reader and a comparative look at the Braille Sense U2 and the new Polaris.
We talked to Jeff Bazer back in April and it is always a good time when we meet up. Jeff is usually flying around the states from show to show so we really appreciate Jeff for taking the time to share with us and give us an overview of some of HIMS great products.
You can contact Jeff Bazer by email
You can find out more about HIMS products on the web at www.Hims.inc.com
See complete Transcription below.
Jeff Bazer’s Overview of the HIMS Braille Sense Polaris, Braille Sense U2 and the Blaze EZ. (Transcription Provided)
Welcome to Blind Abilities.
I’m, Jeff Thompson
Jeff Bazer from HIMS is here to talk about the BrailleSense Polaris, the BrailleSense U2 and the Blaze EZ.
He does a great over-view of all three products; and does a good compare and contrast
between the Polaris and the U2, great stuff. And I want to thank Jeff Bazer for coming on.
He’s usually flying around from show to show. And he’s here today to talk to us about the products from HIMS.
And that’s H-I-M-S dash I-N-C dot com.HIMS-inc.com. On the web, so thank you Jeff.
So we hope you enjoy, and here’s Jeff Bazer
Hello Jeff! It’s great to be with you again, and really appreciate the opportunity.
We’ve been pretty busy at HIMS, since we chatted last; I think that was in April, of 2017.
And now here we are, recording this – actually, just before Thanksgiving. There’s a few things I want to highlight here, as we’re chatting.
Specifically, before we’re finished here, I want to talk about our Blaze EZ Multi-player; which is our portable, personal reader.
I wanna talk about BrailleSense Polaris, just to tell you where we are.
That’s our brand new, state-of-the-art, Andriod-based, Google-certified note taker.
And now I just want to compare and contrast the differences between our Polaris and our BrailleSense U2;
which you may have heard of, because that’s been around a few years. And is not going anywhere. So we’ll cover those three things here today.
By the way, just to give contact information, I’ll do that now, and at the end to. If you need to reach me at any time.
Again I’m Jeff Bazer. B, like boy, A-Z-E-R.
I cover the northeast states, in the United States, for HIMS.
But where ever you’re listening to this podcast, I would love to chat with you, and if we need to get you to a local distributor in the area.
Or you need to talk to HIMS directly,
I can help you do that. So my phone number, directly, is: 727-244-3726.
And my email is Jeff, J-E-F-F at HIMS, H-I-M-S dash inc, that’s I-N-C. So HIMS dash INC dot com.
[ Jeff@HIMS-inc.com ]
Let’s start by talking about the BrailleSense Polaris. We introduced that in April, when we were talking to you Jeff.
But we had not released it yet.
And we since have done that, it was released at the end of June, and it’s getting pretty popular.
Lots of folks using this, both on a professional basis and in school as well. So lots of students and professionals, a-like.
So this is the first Google-certified note-taker, without a screen. So you think of it like a Braille tablet, basically.
Because it’s running Android, we’re running Android lollipop 5.1 operating system; which is upgrade-able, by the way.
So when we decide we wanna upgrade that operating system we’ll be able to do that.
But because that’s the operating system we went with, we are able to support many of the popular Google services that folks are using.
Both now in the company atmosphere, you know, from a professional stand-point.
But also college campuses, and in K12 environments as well. And we’re talking about things like GoogleDocs, GoogleSlides, Sheets; things like that.
Lots of people are doing so much more now, in the cloud. So we have access to Google Drive, as well.
So a place where you can, of course, store any kind of files. Basically a hard drive in the cloud. And we have access to that too, to Google Drive.
Now of course what’s nice about this is that if you have a Google account
that maybe you’re running someplace else; on your computer, on your Android phone, or places like that.
When you log in with your Polaris you’ll be able to access all the same files, many of the same apps.
Because your account remembers the apps that you’ve used and have access to.
You can download those and run them on your Polaris. Now, the question is: Because Polaris is an Android-based device, are all these apps going to work?
The Wild Wild West of Android, not every app will work, but I can assure you at HIMS we’ve tested about 80 to 90 apps,
in various different categories. Everything from Banking, to Social Networking, to Media.
You know for Podcast listening, radio station listening, things like that.
Book reading apps, such as the GoRead from BookShare, NLSBard, things like that.
So lots of the popular applications that blind folks are using. We’ve tested though, and then given a report on how they work.
And you’ll be able to find that list on our HIMS website. Or if you don’t know exactly where it’s at, let me know. I can send you that link.
So that’s just a great starting point as far as the apps that you’re going to be able to use on our device.
Now one of the things that was very important to us when we were developing the BrailleSense Polaris was
we need to keep the familiarity of older HIMS note-takers because if somebody has used older note takers in the past,
or they’ve been a HIMS customer for a long time. We want to make sure that when they upgrade and use the new
BrailleSense Polaris that it still feels familiar to you. Plus have the new added capability
of the Android operating system and access to the Google Play Store, so that you can go get all these different apps.
So that’s exactly what we’ve tried to do, and it’s really worked out pretty well.
So we still have our very famous word processor, you know. Our e-mail client web browser, media player, DaisyPlayer.
Those are all still there, just like what’s been on older HIMS note takers, including the U2, in the past.
Now the other thing is, since the Polaris has been released not only can you use these various apps
and try them out, and see how they work. As well as working with, say the Word Processor,
the e-mail client web-browser. Things I just mentioned a moment ago.
Some of the things we’ve been doing, because we’ve upgraded the firm-ware a few times here since it’s release.
And by the way, if you have a HIMs note taker any time there’s a firm-ware upgrade,
there’s not going to charge for that. We include that for free. And once you’re into the ‘eco-system,’ so-to-speak,
there’s no charge for any upgraded software, or firmware as we call it on the note-taker side.
So the only thing you’re going to pay for, after you own a note taker would be maintenance on the product itself.
The product maintenance agreement which would cover the hardware.
Say in this case, the Braille cells on the refresh-able display, or buttons on the unit. Things like that.
When We’ve upgraded the firmware, the biggest things that we’ve done…
We have solved some of the issues that were outstanding in the Web browser and the Word Porcessor,
basically tightened things up that people were reporting that weren’t working quite according to plan.
And so, as a result of that we’ve put three updates out, now. Within the course of just about..
four months, since this has been released. So they’ve been coming fast and furious,
but we’ve really listened to our Beta-testers, we’ve taken all the feedback from folks
who have reported in using our products, and really tried to make this happen pretty quickly.
So the other main thing that we’ve been working on, with the onset of another school year for this fall,
has been the ability to work with math, both UEB and Nemeth math on the BrailleSense Polaris.
And what we’ve been to accomplish so far is the ability to write an equation, for example, in the word Processor,
in “Math mode,” and you can access this in a number of different ways.
So first of all, connecting to a monitor, with the BrailleSense Polaris is pretty easy.
There’s an HDMI port on the back and you can be connected, visually, to a monitor so your sighted counter-parts
or in this case your teachers, would be able to see exactly what you’re doing.
So when you write in an equation, in Math mode on the Polaris, your teacher can see it on the monitor.
And it’s in print and looks exactly like it should, if it’s written properly.
Also you as a blind person, see it correctly on the braille display too. And it’s spoken.
So if you want the screen reader to announce it, via speech, we have that ability as well.
So simultaneously, three different ways to be able to access this information.
That’s the first thing, and that’s been pretty exciting, because we haven’t been able to do that
exactly like that in the past. And our competitors haven’t been able to either.
The second phase that we’re working on, and we’re almost finished now with it,
is the graphing capability, too. So we’re adding the ability to graph; on x and y axis kind of thing.
And ya know, graph equations.
Basically there’s a key-stroke that you can press, after you’ve written out your graph.
And then we actually create that image on the screen.
So it’s in it’s infancy right now. I don’t have a ton of experience with it yet.
But it’s coming along very quickly and the folks who we’ve shown this to in the classroom, so far,
have been very happy and very impressed and said this is going to bring
some new independence to students who are working with math.
And the fact we can see it on the fly as- as teachers, as well.
So that’s the thing to remember about the BrailleSense Polaris, if you would remember that it’s
a very powerful device with lots of new capabilities. Easy to connect to a monitor;
not only via the HDMI port, like we mentioned. So if it’s a projector or any HDMI monitor in the classroom,
maybe even a large smart board monitor. You should be able to connect to that.
But we also have the ability to connect to other tablets, like iPads and things like that through TeamViewer.
So remotely, ya know, wirelessly that is; we are able to connect so you could use the iPad or even your phone,
if you were a teacher; as the screen, for output, coming from the BrailleSense Polaris.
So much easier now than it’s ever been before to get data on, and off, these devices.
And of course we have USB connectivity, and SD card connectivity.
So to connect thumb drives, and SD cards and things like that. And, of course, all the on-board storage that’s there too.
64 gigs of on-board storage too. So what we’re trying to say is you basically have an unlimited amount of storage,
and lots of ways to get the data off the unit, and onto where ever it’s needed to go.
So that’s the BrailleSense Polaris in a nutshell, and of course you can go to our website:
HIMS-inc.com to access all of our product information.
I just want to compare and contrast, quickly, the- some differences
between the BrailleSense Polaris and the U2, that been a- out for a little bit longer.
So first of all, just to let you know, that our U2 is not going away at all.
Because we really feel like there are different products for different sectors of the market.
We’ve been asked a few different times, ya know, when demonstrating the Polaris
“Well. ya know. on the U2 you guys had apps built in for Twitter and Facebook, and BookShare and- and things like that.
Have you preserved that on the Polaris?”
The answer is: no, we haven’t. Because those apps are available from the Google Play Store
and you can go download those. That’s what we’ve elected to do.
So some of the conveniences that we’ve built into the BrailleSense U2, they’re on the Polaris.
But it’s a bit of a different way to access those
You have to go out to the Google Play Store, get those, install the apps on the Polaris, and use them that way.
For folks who are pretty technical, and are used to doing this kind of thing, on their phone or their tablet,
it’s not going to be a big deal. and there’s a lot more flexibility there because, of course,
there’s all kinds of different apps. and with the U2 you’re locked into what’s available.
But for a lot of folks, that’s enough. That’s all they need. We have an NLS Bard app built in to our Sense U2.
We have a BookShare app. We have Twitter and Facebook. We have a Google Search tool. We have Dropbox.
All these things that are there, and they’re built in. So our belief is that for younger students, you know,
maybe folks who are just learning Braille. Even if they’re older, and a professional, and that kind of thing;
but haven’t really used a note taker, a lot, before.
The Sense U2 might be exactly what you need, and so, for that reason we have them both.
There’s about a thousand dollar price difference, usually, with those. Because right now we’re talking about the 32-cell devices.
Now if we’re talking about the mini’s, 18-cell, on our Sense U2. We’ve dropped that price down, too.
To $2,995.00 you can get into one of these for, which is a phenomenal price on an 18-cell note taker.
And for folks wondering about “When is the Polaris Mini coming?” That will be in 2018.
We’ll probably be showing that off, at CSUN, in March and shipping shortly thereafter.
So a Polaris Mini is coming, as well. So that’s really some of the differences between our two popular note takers.
Again if you have other questions just let us know, and we can clarify anything that we’ve been talking about here.
So let’s wrap up here, Jeff, if that’s OK, by talking about the Blaze EZ.
You mentioned, to me, that you’ve had some questions from students and other folks you’ve been talking to on that.
So let’s talk about the Blaze a little bit. This is a wonderful product from HIMS. It’s been out now for a few years.
So it’s pretty popular, but it’s is a portable, personal reader, and multi-player, is basically what we call it.
It’s about the size of a deck of cards, it’s tiny. Really, it’s very portable, it’s rectangular in size;
and it’s fits in the palm of your hand.
What I like about it so much is you can bring this thing anywhere. I mean I do a lot of traveling.
I’m on the train, the plane, the bus, that kind of thing. And I have mine with me all the time.
To read my favorite books, or listen to my favorite podcast.
Because that’s exactly what it’s designed for. We have NLS Bard capability there,
so you just go through that process of downloading a book onto the device.
And you can do that in various ways. You can either put it on an SD card and bring it in that way;
there’s an SD card slot. You can also connect the player to the computer and copy and paste that way,
so if you had downloaded it to your computer. The- The Blaze can be a drive, you know, off of your computer,
so you can just copy and paste on.
Or you can do it directly. Because we have WiFi built into our Blazes
so that you can connect to your WiFi network and download using the built in NSL Bard, or BookShare app
on the Blaze and do it that way, too. Some of the ways that the Blaze here stands out
from some of the competing products on the market. Number one, we do have on-board storage, built in.
So before you need an SD Card or thumb-drive or anything else, you have 12 gigs of on-board storage.
And that’s a lot of books. I mean you- you could probably have hundreds of books, audio books on this device,
to be able to play, before you ever needed to worry about a card or a thumb-drive. So that’s number one.
Number two, on the Blaze EZ; now we have two models of the Blaze, and the EZ was the first one to come out.
And it’s called the EZ, really, because it is easy to use. and that’s what we wanted everyone to remember.
So we have one touch buttons that are set up for some of the more- the most popular applications on this device.
The first one I might mention to you, I’m kind of going to go in reverse here; but I’ll tell you what these buttons all are.
But this is another very unique feature of the Blaze that other products don’t have.
There is a braille letter O that’s on the lower right corner of the Blaze EZ, and that’s stands for OCR.
There’s a camera built in, an auto-focus camera, that’s on the bottom of the Blaze EZ, and this allows you to scan.
So if you got a document or a piece of mail, or a restaurant menu; anything that you wanted to scan and listen to,
your Blaze EZ could help with this task. So literally, you push the O.. it’s- it’s O in Braille, is what it is.
There’s a Braille letter O on it. You push that button once, and you’ll hear a voice say “take a picture.”
You push it again and you actually hear the shutter sound of the camera,
and the picture is taken of the document, as you hold your Blaze about
Eh.. eight inches or so above the document. As much in the middle, of course, as you can of say the 8 1/2 by 11 sheets.
So you get- you get the whole sheet in there. And it takes the picture, and processes,
and within about fifteen seconds or so, it’s reading your text. Which is beautiful.
So we have that ability there to OCR documents. And of course you can save those on the device as well,
and recall them later. And be able to pull them back up or- you know, whatever you want to do.
Now there’s three other Braille buttons, or Braille letters that are on buttons, on the Blaze EZ.
So on the top, from left to right; there’s a braille letter M, which would take you to the media player.
And that’s where you could find all your podcasts files that you had saved, or music that was on the device.
Skip-by-tracks, things like that. It’s going to take you to the Media player. That’s the braille letter M.
There’s and R, that’s in the middle. Braille letter R. We have an FM Radio, that’s actually built into the Blaze EZ.
You hit this, it will actually turn on your FM Radio. And now ,you have to have a pair of headphones plugged into this
or a patch cord going to a speaker; because that acts as your antenna. But once that happens,
then there’s other buttons on the device that allow you to scroll by frequency or by presets that you have in there.
So basically it’s your FM Radio, just like on your Walk-man, or you know other places that you’d find and FM Radio.
Finally, on the right side there’s a braille letter B, and that’s for Books! So that’ll take you to the book player.
So of course all your DaisyBooks would be stored there, that you downloaded from Bard NLS or BookShare,
or- or anyplace else. And then, as well, you have folders where various other documents,
both text files and word documents could be stored, too. So that’s why we call it a ‘Multi-player.’
Because not only will it read our books, listen to our favorite music or podcasts,
but also read our favorite files; via text or word document. And scan files as well.
So it is a very popular little device, and a very handy device to have for students, and professionals a-like.
The last thing I would tell you about the Blaze EZ, is we’ve created a series of videos for it, that are very well done,
and I think will really help you to get familiar with the Blaze EZ pretty rapidly.
If you go to our HIMS website. HIMS-inc.com and find the Blaze EZ.
Or another way to do it too is just Google: ‘HIMS Blaze EZ,’ and the first entry there is the home page on our HIMS website,
and then at the bottom there’s a link that goes to this three-part video that i’m talking about.
So each video is just a few minutes long and we first go through
the description of the Blaze, giving you all the ports and switches that are on it.
There’s one on OCR, where we actually OCR a document, you can hear how that works.
And the other one is talking about the- the Podcast Catcher, Web Radio that’s built into it,
and some of the other programs that are on the Blaze EZ, as well.
So it’s an awesome little device, I hope you get a chance to take a look at it. By the way, it’s 595$ for the Blaze EZ.
We have one called the Blaze ET that’s a couple hundred dollars more, that has some more advanced features,
and you actually can compare and contrast these on our website, as well, if you wanna take a look.
So again, please feel free to call me, at any time, or send an email:
Jeff Bazer, B-A-Z-E-R.
Phone Number: 727-244-3726, or email: Jeff@HIMS-inc.com
Thanks for listening everybody, and again Jeff, thank you so much for having me back on the program.
We really appreciate the time. Take care everybody.
As always, great stuff.
Nice to hear from Jeff Bazer from HIMS. And thats HIMS dash INC dot com. HIMS-inc.com on the web.
Be sure to check them out, give Jeff a call. Have a chat with him, he would love to hear from ya.
So we hope you enjoyed.
And from all of us at Blind Abilities, we wish you a very wonderful, and happy, and safe Holiday season, to all of ya.
Give your loved ones a big hug. Thanks for listening. And until next time:
-When we share
-What we see
-Through each other’s eyes,
[multiple voices in unison]
We can then begin to bridge the gap between the realities of expectations, and the reality of Blind Abilities.
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective: Check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilites.com
On Twitter @BlindAbilities
Download our app from the App store: Blind abilities, that’s two words.
Or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for listening