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We reported in March on the announcement of the Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator, a calculator designed for the visually impaired, and at T^3, me and Kerm got to play with one. Today it has been released! Pick it up at this link:
http://shop.aph.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product_Orion%20TI-84%20Plus%20Talking%20Graphing%20Calculator_1-07340-00P_10001_11051

With a rather high price tag of $599.00, I'm not sure I'll be purchasing one any time soon, but maybe some of you might. If you do, please let us know! It was a lot of fun to play with, and I definitely see the utility of it.

Here's the list of features copied from their site:
- Graph functions and trace points made accessible with speech and audible tone.
- Listen to entire graph, including special sounds for negative regions and axis crossing points.
- Scroll the history of calculations and quickly recall and edit input/output.
- Choose how to view calculations on screen: as decimals or fractions.
- Matrix functions and calculations.
- Amazing list of scientific, statistical, and financial functions.
- Superb synthesized speech (FonixTalk (TM) from SpeechFX (TM)) with choice of voices, speech rates, and pitch.
- Listen using stereo earphones or built-in stereo speakers.
- Full key help mode, which describes all keys, including 2nd and Alpha functions, without losing your work position.
- Temporary mute mode for teacher/student interaction.
- Use the screen reader to review the screen without losing your place.
- Full access to all menus, expressions, text, and symbols displayed on the screen.
- Expandable hardware accessories using USB port.
- Connect to your computer via USB cable to print or emboss graphs and other work (requires a printer or embosser and a PC).
- LCD display and keypad functionality are identical to the standard TI-84 Plus.

Just for old time's sake, here's a picture of Ken Perry of APH holding the Orion:
$600? That's just unacceptable. There is no way that thing costs that much to manufacture. I can understand that perhaps some of that pays off R&D costs, but for that kind of money they could have developed an entirely new ARM-based graphing calculator that just happens to look and function identically (possibly in part through emulation). Are they trying to rip off government grants?
Well at least they didn't charge $9,999.95 like I expected from TI. Still, the price turned me away immediately.
Based on using it, I assume that that $600 covers the cost for developing the modified operating system, the firmware inside the top module, and so on. I believe it was a very small team working on the project, and it must have taken thousands of man-hours to pull this off. Not that I'm excusing or explaining the high price tag compared to the hardware costs; I'm just trying to look at it from a less pessimistic point of view. And I believe there's probably something significantly more powerful than a z80 inside the top module, though of course that would still not cost that much, even in non-bulk order sizes.
I don't know about anyone else here, but $13.65 sounds a bit high for just the calc cover...
AHelper wrote:
I don't know about anyone else here, but $13.65 sounds a bit high for just the calc cover...
It appears to be molded to fit the protrusion the module causes on the back of the calculator. The injection-molding for those can't be cheap, at least at the beginning. Smile
Anyone know about programmability?
I think what we must all understand is that this device is for a VERY SPECIFIC MARKET and is therefore not going to be cheap because it is not designed for the everyday user. I do feel, however that it will not be accessible to all members of the target market (the blind) because of its crippling cost, which is a shame really.
ordelore wrote:
Anyone know about programmability?
It runs a modified version of the standard TI-84 Plus operating system, based on my exploration of it at T^3 2013, so it will be just as programmable as any TI-84 Plus calculator. I'm looking forward to see how accessible BASIC programs will be by dint of using the normal OS functions. Also, I can't say much about it at this point, but Cemetech will probably have a hands-on Orion review eventually.
I'd really like to see a video of it in operation.

Kerm: It would be a nice calculator for your collection Razz
ElectronicsGeek wrote:
I'd really like to see a video of it in operation.

Kerm: It would be a nice calculator for your collection Razz
Well, they're calculators, not Pokemon, but I am very interested in the technology behind the calculator. When I tried it out at T^3, I was very impressed with the level of non-visual information it provided, from tones corresponding to the shape of graphs graphed to the ability to read out any text on the screen to vibrating cues at certain points. I can only assume they have improved and fine-tuned it since I first tried it.
KermMartian wrote:
Well, they're calculators, not Pokemon

Well, I'd be surprised if you could fit any TI calculator within a ball...
Reading that cracked me up!

Joking aside, it looks to be very technically impressive and I think a well engineered tool like this will be extremely useful for the blind. how do you think that they have modified the TI-OS (what changes have they made)?
I am very confident that they have modified the OS to at least some extent. The About screen showed a custom OS version number, 2.55/ORh. I'm not sure what it might add, as I believe a lot of the accessibility logic is in the add-on module, but probably the ability to easily read textShadow and other buffers via I/O and/or USB. Massive photo warning on this photograph of the About screen:
http://www.cemetech.net/personal/photos/t32013/CIMG0739.JPG
Ah I see. Is the Orion unit detachable?
ElectronicsGeek wrote:
Ah I see. Is the Orion unit detachable?
Yes, but it's not designed to be detached. Being my curious self, I detached the module on the prototype, and I'm embarrassed to say the gentleman who generously showed us the prototype had a hard time getting it back together again. He said on the final version, the module will be screwed into the back of the calculator's case, so presumably that's now the case.
How embarrassing! I can understand why it shouldn't be detached.
BUMP!
Critor posted this article on Omnimaga. It includes lots of pictures and a video (which I have not got round to watching yet)

Enjoy!
ElectronicsGeek wrote:
BUMP!
Critor posted this article on Omnimaga. It includes lots of pictures and a video (which I have not got round to watching yet)

Enjoy!
Incidentally, the pictures from T^3 are ones that I took of critor with my camera. Smile The video is cool, though; I look forward to making my own when I get hands-on with the device again.
Those pictures aren't of critor, they're of Adriweb...
Some pictures come from Adriweb, yes, but the rest from the APH website.

Did you notice the link to the Cemtech news at the end by the way ?
  
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