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Welcome to 277.. 2

Existing Voice Dream Reader Customers Can Keep What They Paid For 3

Amos Miller discusses the forthcoming Glide mobility device.. 5

Guiding in the Swimming Pool 25

Non-24 and Managing Insomnia.. 25

Boycotting Israeli Technology Products. 29

First Impressions of My Phonak Lumity Hearing Aid Trial 36

Closing and Contact Info.. 41




Welcome to 277


Voiceover: From Wellington, New Zealand, to the world, it’s Living Blindfully – living your best life with blindness or low vision. Here is your host, Jonathan Mosen.


On the show this week: Glide is an innovative device that’s got the blind community talking even before its release. We learn all about it, Applause Group has listened and Voice Dream Reader is back on track, and a difficult conversation about a topical subject.

It’s great to be back with you for episode 277.

There is no area code 277 in the North American numbering plan to tell you about, and I actually didn’t expect that there would be. When I sit down to start a new episode, the first thing I do is look up the area code these days so I can tell you about it if one exists. But I thought to myself, myself I thought, there’s not going to be a 277. It just sounds like some sort of special thing that might be kept in reserve for some not yet known purpose. And so it is. So if you receive an area code 277 call on your phone, it’s probably from someone who does not wish you well.

Advertisement: On the other hand, you can be sure that Pneuma Solutions wish you well, and they sponsor transcripts of Living Blindfully.

I was reflecting the other day on Mastodon that it was on the 9th of April, 2023, that we held that webinar that so many of you attended. It went on for such a long time. We talked about the new Living Blindfully and the way it was going to work, and the number of people who have subscribed to Living Blindfully plus way exceeded my projections. And I really appreciate that and everybody’s ongoing support of the podcast, and also Pneuma Solutions, because what we’ve built up since those transcripts started, in fact, is a pretty cool searchable repository of information. I use it myself a lot, actually. I go to and search, and you can find a lot of information in those transcripts.

Now, among other things, Pneuma Solutions produce Scribe for Meetings. And if you’ve used this, you’ll know its value. Scribe for Meetings breaks down those barriers to accessible presentations by providing fully accessible presentation content for Zoom and Teams meetings.

Now, there’s an opportunity at the moment, and Pneuma Solutions is encouraging everybody in the United States to seize the opportunity to make their voices heard and urge Congress to adopt Scribe for Meetings and Equal Access in Online Meetings in General as a federal mandate, as they pass the Communications Video and Technology Accessibility Act (that is CVTAA, for short).

You can find out much more about this by visiting Pneuma Solutions’ website, and then going to their blog. That’s This is an important issue.


Existing Voice Dream Reader Customers Can Keep What They Paid For

In episode 275, I mentioned that I was confident that an outcome that would satisfy most Voice Dream users was imminent.

And indeed, it was fairly imminent. It came a little bit earlier than I was expecting, not too long after we published episode 275 for our plus subscribers.

So I want to read you the statement in full, and make some other comments.

The statement says this:

“Following our recent announcement to transition Voice Dream to a subscription, we received an overwhelming response from thousands in our community. Your feedback, along with the impactful stories shared about Voice Dream being a pivotal part of your daily lives, has led us to reverse this change.

We will continue to provide access to the app’s existing features at no additional cost.

As we continue developing Voice Dream, some new features may be offered as part of a subscription, but the current capabilities will remain free to those who have already purchased Voice Dream.

For those who have already moved to a subscription, it’s no longer necessary to continue using the app. You may cancel your subscription, but we welcome you to keep it active to support ongoing development.

To those who wish to support Voice Dream, please consider a subscription, a one-time donation via our website, or simply leaving a positive review in the App Store.

We sincerely thank you for your passionate and loyal support of Voice Dream. Your voices have made a difference.”

And that ends the statement.

I’m obviously very pleased that Applause Group have taken the right decision and brought themselves back into compliance with Apple’s guidelines. And I appreciate that I’m in a bit more of a privileged position than most because I have had a meeting with them to talk this issue through when I wrote my blog post about it. And it’s very clear to me that they now understand the awesome responsibility they have for nurturing an app that so many in the blind community value very highly.

I’m also encouraged by the fact that they’ve set up their group on and they are posting to it there, answering questions and taking suggestions. So the level of engagement with the community is now actually better, in some ways, than it was when it was owned by Winston Chen, because I don’t believe there was ever a Voice Dream group under his ownership. Now there is, people can get together, trade tips, tricks, and ideas. So that’s a laudable development.

People’s mileage will vary, of course, but I intend to subscribe to the app. I want to say that I support their ongoing development.

It is difficult to generate revenue from apps, particularly when you’ve potentially saturated one of your key markets, so I’m happy to pay. What many people objected to, and what Apple said was “Wrong, you can’t do it.”, was the idea that unless you pay again, you can’t have the features you already paid for. Now that that’s been sorted, I’m very pleased to be able to support them with a subscription, and I look forward to what the next year of innovation from Voice Dream will be like.

So congratulations to everybody who advocated on this subject. So often, we are the people who things are done to and for, without our input. And in this case, we said no, we’re not having it, and enough of us stood up to make a difference.

I have heard one or two people try to characterize this advocacy on social media as online bullying. Using pejorative terms like that to describe people who simply stood up for Apple’s own guidelines and to be treated fairly is extremely unfortunate.

In my address to NFB last year, I talked about the story of the little red hen, and I expect you know it well. Some of the farm animals wouldn’t help the little red hen take all the steps necessary that resulted in a nice, tasty loaf of bread, but they were more than happy to eat the bread once it came out of the oven with its enticing smell.

And so it is that those blind people who hurled epithets at other blind people for simply standing up for this issue and called them entitled whiners and sent passive-aggressive posts criticising people for keeping the discussion going, those people are now also able to benefit from the work that you have done if you advocated constructively on this issue.

I’m sure that there must have been people who advocated in an unconstructive way on this issue and used inflammatory language at Applause Group and called them all sorts of names. And that is extremely unfortunate because I don’t think that there was anything deliberately dishonest going on here. They are trying to find a way to keep this product viable, and it’s in our interests that they do so.

But if you wrote a polite letter of some kind to Apple or to Applause Group expressing your concerns, and you shrugged off any criticism that you got for taking the principled stand that you did, then good on you. History teaches us that it is the change agents, those who take on the system and make things better who are remembered, and that is as it should be.

And now, perhaps a few more people realize that they have more power than they thought they did, and are encouraged to continue to try and make the world a fairer, more accessible place.


Voiceover: On Living Blindfully, we hear the opinions of blind people from all over the world.

So why not share yours?

Drop us an email. You can write it down, or attach an audio recording. Email us today.

Or if the phone is more your thing, phone our listener line in the United States: 864-60-Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.

Amos Miller discusses the forthcoming Glide mobility device

A device that guides you whether you’re outside or inside, seamlessly weaves you around obstacles, tells you about your surroundings, gives you directions, finds doors, and more. Well, just a few short years ago, that would have sounded like science fiction.

Now, thanks to AI and technology being used for self-driving vehicles, Glide is apparently close to release.

The CEO of Glidance, the company that produces this, is Amos Miller, and he joins me now. He also has some history already in this orientation and mobility space.

Amos, welcome to Living Blindfully. It’s really good to have you here.

Amos: Jonathan, it’s great to be here. Thank you for having me.

Jonathan: Tell me a little about you. Because you’ve been in this space for a wee while, and you came to it because you have retinitis pigmentosa, I understand.

Amos: That is right. I was diagnosed when I was 5-years-old with retinitis pigmentosa. I didn’t know what that was when I was 5, but I probably lost most of my sight in my early 20s, while I was doing my computer science degree. And yeah, I’ve lived with the progression of the disease throughout my life. Probably lost all my sight by the age of 30, when I switched completely to audio equipment.

Jonathan: When you were doing that computer science degree, you obviously would have been aware of the degenerative nature of RP. So did that influence the kinds of things that you focused on when you were doing that degree?

Amos: I wouldn’t say at the time, no. I mean, that was in the early 90s. I mean, probably one of the most exciting things that I got into at the time was neural networks, which has now evolved into machine learning and AI. But I didn’t at the time know that that’s going to be so central to what I do in my career. I was a wide-eyed young guy who wants to learn computers and change the world. I wasn’t really associating it to my eye condition at the time.

Jonathan: The other O&M product that you’ve been involved in was Soundscape, and that was very popular. It’s one of those products that I never got to use, really, because they never released it in the New Zealand store. So there was a lot of controversy when Microsoft dropped Soundscape and decided to make it open source. But for me, that’s actually been a benefit because now, there are a couple of apps that are in the New Zealand App Store that use that technology and are available to me. So it’s been a bit of a revelation.

How did you get into designing that?

Amos: Most of my career in tech has been in, I would say, unrelated fields – fields not related to my disability and accessibility. And to some degree, and some of the listeners maybe may relate to that. It was quite deliberate. I wanted to stand on my own feet and not be assumed to be the person who does the accessibility, just because I’m blind. Most of my career, pretty much out of the gate, out of college through to 2008, 2009. That’s when I started to kind of allow my disability to get into my work as well.

Really, that came about because I joined the Guide Dogs board over in the UK. And one of the questions the board had was really, how is technology going to change the lay of the land for people who are blind, for wayfinding and navigation? That was pretty early.

But still, you know, already a number of technologies have come about – the trecker, the Seeing Eye GPS started to appear.

That’s when I brought Microsoft and Guide Dogs together to explore that question back in like 2011 or so. The ideas around the use of audio and sound to really, in some ways, enhance what we do when we learn orientation and mobility, right? We learn to read the environment in order to orient, in order to understand the direction we need to go, in order to identify landmarks, in order to judge safety, and so forth.

And so we looked for ways to improve that experience and really empower people with a lot. You know, it’s kind of the gap between what your guide dog or your cane can reach and the information that the map gives you. Everything in between is missing.

Long story short, that led to a proof of concept that we created back in 2013 or so in the UK. And from that, Microsoft really saw the potential of doing something real for an impactful project, and that led to the development of Soundscape.

Very close to my heart as you can imagine, Jonathan. I mean, I’m a great believer in technology that doesn’t get in the way of your experience, but supports it and enhances it. We got some way there with Soundscape.

In some ways, it was a little bit ahead of its time because we were really banking on these AR headsets and so on that took some time to arrive. [laughs]

Jonathan: Hmm.

Amos: But they’re coming around now, so I still believe.

And we see more and more of that happening ? that audio, movement, spatial sound, and augmented experiences is going to continue to enhance our experience when we’re out and about as people with sight loss.

Jonathan: Let’s talk about Glide, then. How did the idea of Glide crystallize for you, and how long have you been working on the project?

Amos: Oh, you know, these things initially start from thoughts and conversations that you have with people. I remember way back, even in the early 2010s and so on, just kind of, like you said in the opener. Surely, there should be something that, … We all walk around the airport with this wheeled suitcase and wonder why doesn’t it guide me, right? It’s kind of so obvious. But it’s not around. So you know, the thought is in the back of my mind, in one’s mind for a while.

I think it really came to me, Jonathan, in recent years, as we were working on Soundscape and I’ve attended a lot of the conferences, and so on – the real spectrum of ability when it comes to orientation and mobility. And a lot of the people that we interact with and learn from are far at the tail end on the right of the distribution curb. Really, people who fly down the street with their canes and walk around like there’s no tomorrow, and walk through airports with great confidence, and so on.

But it started to dawn on me, you could say that’s obvious but it started to dawn on me that there is a lot of people who don’t have that level of confidence and who use a cane but every opportunity, they’ll grab onto someone’s arm, if that exists. Or people who have learned the cane, but have never really mastered it.

And then when you start to look at the numbers, it also reinforces that. I mean, I’m spending time at Guide Dogs in the UK. Registered blind, we probably are around 400,000 in the UK, blind with significant sight loss or total sight loss, maybe a million, million and a half, depending on where you want to draw the line, and 5,000 guide dogs, like it’s out of proportion, right? There’s a gap.

We’ve also seen with Soundscape that most of the users with Soundscape are at the far end of the distribution curve, the people who are out there already.

So how do you get more people with sight loss out and about, people who lose their sight later in life? Maybe they will struggle to build the orientation and awareness skills that you really need in order to confidently walk around with a cane independently.

As you know, I explored this space with you guys and with lots of other people ? Mike May and a whole bunch of people over a number of years, and we’ve tried a lot of things using GPS and using Bluetooth beacons, and we’ve tried the use of audio, haptics, and various wearables.

And at some point, I just came to the maybe pragmatic conclusion, or you can give it another name if you will, if you want, Jonathan. But ultimately, if you are someone who’s not particularly technologically savvy, or someone who struggles to get too many inputs, right? You need simply something that guides you just like you hold on to someone’s elbow. And then, in order for that to work, you need something that is physically connected to the ground, and your body is not in relation to something virtual. Your experience and interaction with that thing is very physical. It’s very connected. It’s, like I said, connected to the ground. It’s separate from you, but it’s still an extension of you. And we’ll come to why I use those terms in a moment.

And that led me to experimenting with different ways of doing that, and really landed on this idea that we now call Glide. And I can briefly explain what it is, if this is the time to do it, Jonathan.

Jonathan: Yeah. I’m trying to conceptualize it in my mind. I mean, you mentioned a wheeled suitcase before, and that’s interesting because I do remember…

Amos: It’s not a wheeled suitcase.

Jonathan: I remember reading an article about a Japanese blind woman who has developed something like that. And I’ve not had a play with that, or anything like that. But is it like holding a guide dog’s harness, for example?

Amos: So let me walk you through it. And I think it’s important because it’s a little bit hard to describe it. But once you get it, it’s completely obvious.

Okay. It’s basically a long handle that you hold. It does come down like at the angle of a guide dog harness.

And then at the bottom there, it sits basically on 2 wheels. The wheels are side by side. They’re about six inches in diameter. We’re gonna make them a little bit bigger. They’re about 8 inches apart. And so the handle goes down from your hand down to those wheels.

And now, you’re holding on to this handle around your waist. Let’s say if you’re holding it in your right hand, it’ll be on the right hand side of your waist, or you could hold it hanging your hand like you would a guide dog harness. Just turn it to your side a little bit in front, and you start walking. And the moment you start walking, those wheels on the ground begin to steer. They steer left and right.

So basically, what happens is it uses the sensors, computer vision, and all the good stuff that’s in the box to determine a safe path to see obstacles. So let’s say you’re walking along a corridor, it will make the micro corrections as you walk, just to keep you straight along that corridor as though you’re shorelining, but you don’t need to. You’re just walking.

I call it microcorrections because you and I know that we never walk in a straight line, right? Unless we really experience that. [laughs] Yeah? So we’ll always veer a little bit to the left, veer a little bit to the right. And what Glide will do at that stage is just keep you going straight. But you don’t notice that. I mean, it’s completely in your subconscious because you’re basically being guided by this device. It’s like you don’t notice when your sighted guide is making micro corrections, you’re just working with them.

The wheels are not motorized. They’re not pulling you. You’re actually providing the glide the forward movement. You determine the speed. You determine how fast you want to go, if you want to go forward, you want to go back. Entirely up to you. You don’t need to press any buttons or need to make any adjustments to the system. All you do is walk. As you start walking, Glide picks up and starts to guide.

Jonathan: That’s a good overview.

I want to preface the next section of questions by pointing out to listeners that Glide is a work in progress at the moment. There are going to be units that are going out to testers. So some of the conceptual, philosophical questions that we’re discussing may have a different answer once you’ve got some of that user feedback and once you refine the product, so nothing is set in stone at this point.

I guess this is a snapshot of your thinking in time right now and that’s going to change, potentially based on the feedback that you get. And I’m quite excited about that, because it means listeners who might want to use this product can actually influence what it does and how it behaves.

So having said that, let me put some scenarios to you.

Let’s take an indoor environment, for example, like a hotel that doesn’t have Braille labels on the doors and you are walking along a long corridor that has many doors on either side. Presumably, you still have to use some of your own blindness techniques to work out what the correct door is. Or does it have the ability, for example, to say I want to go into room 213 (just to pick a number at random), and it will find that for you?

Amos: You asked a question that would be asked by the people on the far end of the distribution curb. And I would like to try and bring the conversation to, (with your permission), to someone who has a job, have lost their sight in recent years, and basically what they need to do is to get to work. And to get around their work environment safely, they’re not yet what i call the pro users who are going through airports completely on their own and going to hotel rooms by themselves.

I include myself in that. I never go to a hotel room by myself. I always get assistance when I walk in a hotel. Why? I don’t know. I just don’t feel confident enough.

So I just want to frame the conversation there, because that’s where I think the immediate need is.

And In that situation, what we’re looking for is a device that first and foremost, keeps you safe. As in you walk along, you don’t bump into anything, it keeps you on your path, right? Keeps you on the sidewalk, avoids you from walking into trees, or lampposts, or anything else that’s in the way, avoids the curb on the side. And when you get to the dropped curved, helps you to find that dropped curb to cross the road. That’s a typical outdoor scenario that we would all be familiar with.

And then at some point, you will get to your front door or you’ll get to a bus stop.

Let’s say that you get to the building where you work. You need to get through the front door and get to your cubicle, or the elevator that takes you to the floor that gets you to your cubicle laying down that scenario.

Jonathan: So you can train this to learn which is your cubicle, correct?

Amos: Exactly. If you are already familiar with your route, then you will use the basic, what we call safe wayfinding. You will use the basic ability of Glide to keep you safe on that route. I know where I am. I want to walk confidently. I’m not going to use the cane to go left and right to figure out exactly what’s going on. I’m just going to walk, and I have a good handle where I am. That’s a little bit like you’d use a guide dog.

Then beyond that, what we’re working on is a line-of-sight targeting. Line-of-sight targeting is when the camera can detect a possible target such as a dropped curb, or a door, or an elevator, up escalators, down escalators. And when Glide will detect that, it will basically steer you towards it if that’s the target you want to go. And we can talk about how we’re thinking about the interaction.

And then beyond that, like I said, for that lady who lost her sight in the scenario that I drew before, what we’re looking to do is to allow you to train Glide on that route. No maps yet, no crazy capabilities just yet, but really train you on that route so that you can get to that bus stop, get off the bus, get to your office block, and train Glide on the key routes that you do in your building so that you can confidently do them.

Jonathan: So you have to go with Glide and teach it those walks so that then it knows where you are heading, where you like to go. Is that how it works?

Amos: Yes. Imagine, the alternative today is that you will meet with your orientation and mobility instructor who’s going to work with you on those routes. And so what we are working towards is that maybe it’s your colleague, or maybe it is your orientation and mobility instructor. You do that walk once or twice with Glide. And then from there, Glide can really get you back on your feet really quickly.

Jonathan: I imagine there will be some people listening to this who think this is a technological answer to a resource constraint. It’s actually letting the system off the hook because if there were more travel instructors around, if there were more guide dog instructors around, if existing technologies were better resourced, this product may not need to exist because people would have better quality travel instruction.

Amos: I think that there are still a lot of people (and I hear that from orientation mobility instructors) who would say that at the end of the day, there’s still a lot of clients of theirs that will master the cane to a point and still need much more help.

You know, one of the things that we hope that with Glide you’d be able to do is get on your feet much quicker and start to walk around in your neighborhood more confidently earlier, so that you start to build your orientation and mobility skills. And you will start to want to do it more independently and use your cane more, and actually accelerate your experience.

So imagine if that became the journey, right? That it’s another tool in the tool set that helps you to build the skills without having to currently go through the way that you’re currently having to go through it, which is really learning the use of the cane and having confidence to do one or two roots with the cane so that you can start to develop your skills and practice.

Jonathan: Would you work with Glide potentially in conjunction with a cane, or would that just confuse it? In other words, would you make a choice at any point? You’re either using your cane, or you’re using Glide.

Amos: That’s something that we’re looking for input from people, and we’re running a lot of user studies and putting the device in people’s hands just to explore the feedback.

I have definitely seen situations where people enjoy having a cane in the other hand, and even just for safety and to be able to feel things around. And if that becomes a scenario that’s going to be important for the use of Glide, then we’ll definitely work to enable that.

However, I’ve also seen a lot of people either who have not used a cane or use a guide dog, so that wasn’t a specific requirement.

It could be also at specific times, right? Imagine if you could snap your cane onto Glide and pull it out when you wanted to check something, and otherwise put it back in and just walk.

Jonathan: Alright. Does the device have text-to-speech?

Amos: The device has voice out and voice in.

So we broadly divide the experience into 3 pillars ? safe wayfinding, directed navigation, and scene description. The overall integrated experience is always a combination of these three pillars.

So the camera is on and as you walk, Glide can provide you with information about what you’re passing by, key objects in the environment that may be of interest to you, potential targets that you might want to walk towards.

We’re definitely looking into either working with, or building into it ourselves, scene description capabilities that can provide you that you can stop and you know the entrance to the hotel and say, “Hey, what’s going on here?”.

And you’ll get something along the lines of what you get from Be My Eyes or something like that where, “The reception desk is in front of you. And to the right, the elevators are, and to the left. there’s a sea of people in the middle”.

And then, you can drill into that and choose a potential destination, and have glide guide you there. That’s the vision.

Jonathan: So you would expect it to weave you around that group of people?

Amos: Right, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, yeah. And that’s where the magic of the combination of computer vision and AI, scene understanding, obstacle avoidance, safe wayfinding, they all work in conjunction to say, “Okay. I can see that the reception desk back there, I can see that it’s all blocked in the way. The most likely path to get there is that way, but you have to deal with the obstacles and everything that’s in the way.”

And all of that is before we get to maps, okay? And we can get to maps in a moment. But all of that is what I call uninstrumented environments, right? Using computer vision, using all the senses that Glide can have, using pre-trained experiences or pre-trained areas so that you can move around safely.

Jonathan: And maps would be a significant addition then. If you can tell this thing precisely where you want to go, program it up, and it just guides you to your destination, that would be very significant.

Amos: Absolutely. Giving Glide a destination or setting a destination somehow, and having Glide take you to that destination or support you on your route, on your way to that destination, is very important.

I am currently looking at that in two ways.

I really don’t intend, and I say that and I might regret saying that next year. But Jonathan, I don’t want to build another navigation app. I see no reason for doing that.

I’m building a primary mobility aid. What I want is that primary mobility aid to work with your preferred navigation app. So if you’re using Lazarillo, or if you’re using Soundscape, or if you’re using Google Maps, I want the waypoints from whatever navigation app for Glide to work towards those waypoints.

There are other types of things that we may not think of as navigation apps that would also fit into that model. If an airport has their airport app and it provides a blue dot in the airport, then that should plug into Glide.

Jonathan: Indoor navigation remains the holy grail, doesn’t it? Because a lot of people are trying to solve this problem, and there’s no coalescing, it seems, going on around one particular standard so people are doing their own thing. Navigating those big indoor spaces where GPS isn’t an option it’s challenging for many people including very experienced blind travelers.

Amos: And that’s where the handshake between Glide and an app can come into play. Apps on the phones get the GPS and they get the location services, but they don’t have a lot of other sensors to work with. One of the things that Glide has, … I have a high-quality camera that’s always on and pointing forward. I have range sensors all around me that I can use to detect the environment. I have wheels that measure every millimeter that you walk, turn, or move. I have a much better inertial measurement unit in the device than your typical phone has. I have all these things on this device that can really improve, very significantly, my ability to position myself in an indoor space over time, get corrections from time to time. But all of these things you can only do to a certain extent with the phone camera, I just have a lot more of on this device.

And we’re not inventing this, Jonathan. This is how mobile robots work, right? This is how delivery robots work. This is how warehouse robots work. You have a lot more available to them to perform these kind of autonomous capabilities.

Now, we have that capability, and we have a device that can really deliver that information to a navigation app. And so the navigation app doesn’t need to struggle to figure out where it is. Just tell me what to do.

I actually think that an implementation at an airport is a very achievable space – working with airports to get to a high-quality experience in airports to get you from your gate.

Jonathan: So does that mean you’d need to work with each individual airport? For example, I’m thinking of the scenario where even a very experienced traveler like me, I tend to go for meet and assist in an airport only because I’m also hearing impaired, and it’s very difficult now for me to do echolocation in noisy environments and a range of things like that. So I’ll just take the option of meet and assist, whereas once I probably wouldn’t have.

But I would far rather have a device where I can say to it, “Well first of all, I need to get through the security checkpoint.” And actually, taking Glide through the security checkpoint might be interesting. [laughs] Might be a bit of training required there.

Amos: It’s okay. I do it all the time, no problem.

Jonathan: Oh, that’s good, good, good.

And then second, I want to get to my correct gate.

Amos: So again, that’s a map, right?

Jonathan: Yup.

Amos: I don’t want to presuppose, and we have some things in the works on how that integration would work. And I agree with you that standards is continuing to be a challenge, but that’s the direction that we’re going in. If it’s in an airport, if it’s in a hospital, if it’s in a shopping mall, we have some things in the works and partnerships that we’re looking at in order to start getting that going.

But at the same time, … And the reason I emphasized our conversation earlier about uninstrumented environments, We’ll get there over time.

Let’s get started in what we can do that is already extremely valuable which is in uninstrumented environments, safe wayfinding, line-of-sight targeting, pre-recorded routes. We can all benefit from those, and really start to move much more effectively in space.

And then as we light up, whether it’s ourselves or through partnerships with other organizations (and you can imagine some of those already), we start to light up specific locations with their own specific quirkiness.

Jonathan: Right.

Last year, I was at the NFB convention and GoodMaps did the exhibit hall at that convention and other parts as well with their indoor technology. And it was absolutely incredible to be able to know the booth number that someone was at, and then just go to that booth with confidence, and without any ambiguity, and know exactly when I was there. I mean, that’s technology I can dig because that made one heck of a difference.

Amos: I bet. And again, imagine, and I’m not presupposing anything, but imagine that Glide was connected to that so that you can get the same GoodMaps experience, but Glide is actually guiding you on that path and you don’t have to hold your phone in your hand the whole way.

I see it as a third option primary mobility aid alongside the cane or the guide dog, that just provides another way to get around for people that I would claim is much easier. And it also has the opportunity to plug into whatever app you’re using, or whatever experience you’re in, to guide you through it.

Jonathan: See, it seems like an obligatory thing for mobility aid manufacturers to say, “I’ll never replace the cane or the guide dog.” But as I sit here listening to you and looking down the track, certainly not with version 1.0 but sometime down the track, if you crack the indoor wayfinding issue in terms of getting good quality map data and this thing continues to grow, surely there’s going to be a business case that says, “Actually, you can give a lot more people Glides than guide dogs because we all know how expensive they are to train. Why would anybody continue to want to have one other than that they like dogs?”

Amos: Look, it’s an inevitable future.

I sometimes describe it to people I talk to as like the move from manual gearshift to automatic gearshift. The move to automatic gearshift, a lot of people who enjoy driving couldn’t stand it. There’s still people who drive manual gearshifts today.

But the move to automatic gearshift opened the car industry to a much wider group of people who couldn’t actually use the manual gearshift. So I think we’ll see a transition.

I don’t really see it as an obligatory thing to say. I think that there will always be people who enjoy the lightness and versatility that a cane gives you and will continue to use it, or continue to use it in certain situations.

But at the same time, this kind of technology, I very much believe, Jonathan, we have to start making progress in this space and get this kind of technology to the people, and offer people options and alternatives here.

Jonathan: And I mean, that is going to mean that people are going to have to ask some pretty difficult questions because if people want to continue to work with guide dogs for the companionship (and for many people, the companionship is a very powerful, compelling use case), [laughs] if I might use that expression, for having a guide dog.

But actually, there are mobility tools that can do the same thing in terms of the mobility utility that they offer. And they’re cheaper, and you don’t have issues with allergies, you don’t have various other issues. Then, that’s going to be very difficult for some people to accept.

Amos: Yeah. Another benefit of a device like Glide, and I’m stating the obvious, but you don’t have to use it all the time.

I use a guide dog. I get around my neighborhood with my guide dog. But I don’t really travel with my guide dog because I find that when I travel, I’m often in spaces that I’m not familiar with, nor is the dog familiar with. So I find that you still have all the overheads of caring for the dog, and finding a place to take them out and do everything, but the benefit is limited.

So I would take a Glide with me on the trip, and I can absolutely see how Glide, over time, will become very dominant when I travel in business.

But I will continue to use my dog when I’m at home. And maybe, I’ll do a different combination of that.

So that’s where I think we’ll definitely see combinations of how people choose to use the different options. But to say that in 20 years, would there still be a business case for dogs or canes? We’ll see. I don’t know.

Jonathan: With the first iteration of Glide, do you expect it to be able to handle crossing streets effectively?

Amos: I would expect in the first iteration to be able to cross the street effectively, but I wouldn’t go as far as promising any kind of intersection.

We hold monthly calls with users, and anybody can join to have the conversation. And we had a conversation in our last call a few days ago, a lady from Australia actually described an intersection. “We have to kind of walk into the corner, walk into the street, like at an angle, then take a 45 degree turn, walk across and do another 45 degree turn, and get back on. Yeah. We would definitely work towards solving those problems. I wouldn’t guarantee that that level of complexity will be addressed on day 1.

But one of the things that you’d probably appreciate and understand is Glide is built for over-the-air updates. So once we ship the device, we’re gonna be shipping it with enough capability and capacity so that we can continuously update the models and improve the experience and the features. So over time, we’ll be able to handle more and more complex scenarios.

And there’s a lot of complexity, Jonathan, in what I often term unstructured pedestrian environments. These are not roads with very clear rules, lines, indicators, and signs, right? These are complex unstructured pedestrian environments that Glide needs to make sense of to guide you safely through them.

That’s a fantastic challenge that my team is really excited to be working on. And over time, the capabilities will improve. And we will be partnering with other people who bring other awesome capabilities to this space. And I think it’s time that we all start to benefit from that.

Jonathan: Technology can fail, right? I know canes can break too, to be fair.

Amos: Yeah.

Jonathan: But obviously, if somebody is at an intersection or somewhere critical and something happens to the technology, that could be a real concern. At least, you can carry a spare cane in your pocket or in a backpack. So these are things that people would want to consider, I guess, if they are fairly active.

Amos: Without a doubt. Technology can fail. We are looking at certain degrees of redundancy in the device itself.

One of the riskiest challenges that I think a primary mobility aid has is to make sure you don’t fall off anything on the sides. Like front, the device will fall first. But if you’re walking along a train platform, you don’t want to get too close to the side and trip over the edge, or a sidewalk, right?

So how do we build redundancy into those kind of things, those kind of situations? How do we call in for help?

If you’re somewhere and you got muddled up and you can’t figure it out, you can still use your phone, obviously. Is there a benefit of pulling in, dare I say, an Aira agent, or a Be My Eyes volunteer, or maybe a member of your family who can peer through the Glide camera and say, “Oh, it’s right over there.”?

So there’s various levels of redundancy, but I agree with you. I mean, ultimately, is there a cane that’s attached to it, or a requirement, or a need that you take something with you? I mean, that’s something that we’ll have to figure out.

Jonathan: Right. So clearly, there are some key design decisions still to be made.

Regarding the audio that Glide will generate, will you hear that over a speaker? Can you connect Bluetooth headphones to this if you wish? How does it work?

Amos: So there is a speaker in the handle pointing upwards towards you, to maximize your ability to hear it. And we all know that hearing things in the outdoors is tricky, and that speaker emits sounds and voice. But you can also plug in any kind of headset, wired or Bluetooth.

We also have haptics in the handle. And the haptics are important because one of the things that it’s important for me as you use Glide (and we’re starting to think about the interaction, the details of the interaction here) but the device needs to be able to communicate with you about things that are going on.

The simplest example is you’re walking along, and you’re getting to a door so you now need to slow down. The device has brakes in the wheel so it will apply the brakes when you get to the door. But because you’re determining the speed the device wants you to start slowing down because we’re about to get to the door, it will signal that to you through the haptic handle. You don’t need to hear it. You’ll feel basically a buzz that indicates slow down.

If the coast is clear and you’re walking really slowly, it would give you a double tap on the haptic handle to say, “Speed up. Coast is clear. You can walk. Don’t worry.”

If you are getting through a narrow passage, you know, like go single file because it’s getting tight here, (and you know these are all situations that we are all familiar with, right? ? working with sighted guides, guide dogs and so on), the slow down symbol can also be used for single file so that you slow down a little bit, get through that narrow passage, and now you can speed up again.

You might need to take a sharp turn. So the haptics also provides indications on the left and on the right. As you walk, if Glide takes you around a corner, you’ll feel it. You don’t need any other indication.

But sometimes, if it’s a really tight turn like let’s say you’re in a restaurant and you need to go between 2 tables, it helps if you know what Glide is trying to do, so that you can help it. You can kind of move the handle a little bit in the opposite direction to help it make that turn.

So it will indicate to you again with the haptic, “We’re doing a sharp turn to the right.”, and you’ll say, “Okay, I’m going to help you do that, dude, because I love what you’re doing.”

So there’s a lot of interaction, actually, between you as a user and the device that comes together to accomplish the tasks. And the voice is part of that. But I also always emphasize, in my view, (and I’m very happy to take other thoughts, Jonathan, and that’s something I want to emphasize). But in my view and experience, the voice is almost the third layer of information. It’s not the first. The first is the steering, the second is the haptic, and the third is the voice. That’s just because we know that the voice is the highest bandwidth in terms of information, but it’s also the one that requires the most amount of cognitive attention.

Jonathan: One of the cool tricks that a guide dog can do (if the guide dog is well trained, and or if the guide dog is behaving) is that it can work out. You know, when you’ve talked to someone, ? You mentioned the restaurant example. So if you go into a restaurant and you meet the person who greets you and perhaps guide you to a table, you can hopefully encourage the dog to follow that individual.

Could Glide be made to do that, to somehow hone in on an individual who walks in front of the device and essentially, guide you to where you need to go?

Amos: Absolutely. That’s the kind of thing that we are looking at. I have some thoughts on how to implement that. But absolutely, why not? I mean, you can definitely try to do that with computer vision and so on, or you can just hand them an AirTag, right, and have Glide follow that AirTag. There’s probably shortcuts to doing that that are pretty today technology. And then over time, we’ll do tomorrow’s technology.

Jonathan: Yeah. This is another hearing impairment thing for me that in the past, I wouldn’t have thought twice about – just following someone, and having a wee chat to them, and knowing by the sound of their voice where they were going. In a noisy environment, that’s no longer possible for me, so that’s quite interesting.

And of course, it is worth noting in this conversation that the vast majority of blind people are over the age of, well, 80, actually. But the older people get, the more likely it is that they are experiencing some vision and hearing loss. And a number of older people may feel more comfortable with a device like this than a white cane.

Amos: That’s the learning that we’ll be getting over the coming year and years. That’s definitely my hypothesis, Jonathan.

That grounds our work – all of these people who don’t feel that they have a great solution today. And so their lives shrink, right? They do less and less.

I have actually been fortunate to be able to test a device with a couple of deaf-blind people as well.

Jonathan: Okay. What’s their feedback?

Amos: Incredible.

We had somebody who walked over. We were at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas 2 months ago, and one gentleman walked over, a deaf-blind person. And as he was going through the demo and walking around with Glide, he signaled to his interpreter the word finally, which I think was a real moment for our team to see.

Jonathan: So I get to a building and there’s a big flight of stairs at the front of that building. How does Glide cope, or does it cope?

Amos: I’ve taken a decision, or we as a team took a decision quite early on that we want to make sure that this is a device that is simple, affordable, light, and that gives us a platform to really create a beachhead into this space of autonomous self-guided mobility aids. And to do that, the trade-off that we took is that we will use wheels. We’re not going to use a humanoid, or a walking dog robot, or complicated step-climbing robots because that extends the complexity at an order of magnitude. And with that come cost, and with that come all kinds of other things. I very much want us to make progress with the autonomy capabilities and creating the core capabilities that such mobility device needs to have.

So Glide is wheeled. But to deal with steps, first of all, it’s very light. At the moment, the prototype is a little heavier, but we’re working to a weight that is sub 6 pounds, or sub 2 to 2 and a half kilos, so you can pick it up. It’s not a big heavy thing.

It also will have relatively big wheels. So if you are actually walking down steps, you could wheel it down, if you preferred to.

You don’t have to. You can just grab the handle and pick it up, and hold the rail. And also, when you go up the steps, you can either pick it up or you can drag it behind you, and the wheels are big enough so it will just go up the steps.

So it’s not the most elegant solution for steps. But for the goals that we have right now, I think that this is a trade-off that can be made. And again, happy to hear your thoughts on that.

But in a lot of cases, there are either alternative paths, or elevators, or escalators and we who use guide dogs in the US, even in the UK, we know that often, we will look for let’s say the ADA routes, if those exist. And I think that will be a transition that will make it so.

I hope I gave you a kind of the long answer, but with some of the philosophy of why we chose to go down that path.

Jonathan: Yeah, there seems to be a lot of activity in this space at the moment. I’m reading stories about other companies offering robot guide dogs, and all sorts of things, or purporting to offer them. So it looks like there is going to be a lot of competition, and we’ll see what wins out, I guess, or whether they can coexist.

The one bit of feedback I would offer just hearing that explanation is just the other day, I was at a function where there were a series of pretty ordinary steps going up to the front of the building for most of the way, and then there were some very unusual, very wide steps. I had no difficulty at all negotiating those steps with a cane. But I’m just trying to envision in my mind how I would have done that with Glide.

Amos: We’ll have to deal with these situations.

I mean, I live in a very inaccessible house, actually. Steps and weird anomalies where we are. And I can negotiate because I know it very well. It’s not going to be a space that Glide does a great job at, but it’s also a very inaccessible house.

So where do you draw the line and say, you know, these awful steps are awful steps in any case, right? The fact that we can negotiate them is great.

So I think that there will be gray areas, and maybe that’s the point that you do pull out your cane to negotiate those steps.

Jonathan: Yeah, I’m thinking that.

Amos: Or you look for the ramp on the side, and go up the ramp. Like, wheelchairs wouldn’t go up those steps either.

So I agree with you. I 100% agree, and those are realities that we’re going to have to contend with, both as a community as well as the folks that are developing the product.

Again, we do these regular calls and we take the device out, you know. We’re very early in our development, but we are completely out in the open because it’s so critical for me that we do it with the community and not one day come and ta-da! Here’s a new device that nobody had any input into.

Jonathan: Is there some risk in doing that ? not putting a whole bunch of capable people under non-disclosure because potentially, you’re also sharing data that could benefit a competitor?

Amos: Yeah, there is risk. There is. [laughs] But I feel that it’s worth the risk.

All the great questions that you’ve been asking, Jonathan, and also other people are asking are the questions that we need to ask of the community when we are presented with an opportunity for a new technology to change things quite significantly in what we do and how we think about things. We need to have the orientation and mobility world engage with these questions as well.

And if it’s not Glidance, it’ll be somebody else who brings a device like this. And I think it’s part of our responsibility to do it together.

Partly why I’m not worried about it too much, Jonathan, I mean, it’s a risk, but why I’m not overly worried is because if you just took a robotics company and asked them, “Okay, go and build a mobility aid for the blind.”, what are the chances that they will produce something that we will accept and make as part of our daily life?

Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, we all know about a lot of failed products from people who thought they knew what was best for blind people. And then, it gets in the hands of blind people and they learn something completely different. So that’s a very fair point.

What kind of response have you had to date from the orientation and mobility community?

Amos: Very positive. It’s not uniform. You have always a range.

But everyone acknowledges the issue, acknowledges that they have a significant number of people on their caseload and on their waiting list that they know for a fact are never going to become fully confident and fully independent. So they pretty much uniformly acknowledge the need and the challenge.

I think that there is still a way to understand and explore how does Glide fit into one’s development of their mobility skills.

On the one extreme, can you receive Glide from Amazon, having never had orientation and mobility skills training before, and walk around your block for the first time? I know it’s a very extreme situation, but I don’t think it’s an unlikely situation. You know, somewhere along that spectrum, you have orientation and mobility training that you start with glide instead of the cane. Get the person on their feet after lesson 1, so that they can do their block. They’ll do that 10 times before the next lesson. And by that point, they’re already experts on their block. And now, they can do it with the cane. So I think that there is a lot of ways of exploring how a device that has these capabilities fits into our orientation mobility journey.

And you know, I’ve had conversations with orientation mobility instructors from the VA, the Veterans Affairs here, who were very excited to see this development. Even with the NFB orientation and mobility instructors. And we know that the importance of the cane is very significant.

And at the same time, people are saying that there is most definitely space for a primary mobility aid that will make it easier for people either to build the skills, or as the aid that will get them about. So I think, you know, this is a conversation that we have to have.

Jonathan: Yeah, and I’m excited by all of this new technology. That’s who I am.

But I feel a bit conflicted, if I’m honest with you, because I worry about dependency on a piece of technology for something as fundamental as travel. You know what I’m saying? It’s a really interesting feeling that I’m not sure how to feel about this technology because, you know, when it breaks or it’s not available to you for whatever reason, it would be terrible to think that somebody’s left high and dry because they’ve become so dependent on this thing.

Amos: Talk to me about the alternative.

Jonathan: The alternative for me would be that quality travel instruction is available using the structured discovery method, so that people felt less reticent about exploring their surroundings.

Amos: Is that in any way complementary?

Jonathan: Yes, I think it is.

Clearly, if you’ve got a whole bunch of sensors, cameras, LiDAR and goodness knows what else, that can convey information more efficiently than a white cane ever can. And I completely get that. I’m totally on board with that. Particularly if, as somebody who does travel a lot, my first example might one day be a reality where those cameras are able to look up and read signs on the door.

I mean, I do a lot of work as a chief executive going to government buildings that I’m not familiar with. And if I could go to one of those government buildings and I’m told that you want to meet in room 723 on the 7th floor and Glide can get me to the elevator and I can press the 7th floor button because it’s Brailled, and I get on that 7th floor and I find the room number, I mean, I am, as my kids would say, totally down with that because that’s a real quality of life improvement.

Amos: Yeah.

Jonathan: What worries me though is if there’s some sort of mechanical failure of the device, and someone has never been trained on anything else other than Glide, and they might have a pretty dim view of a white cane, they might say, “This is an antiquated symbol of blindness. I don’t want to be associated with a white cane. I don’t want to carry a white cane with me as a backup.” What happens to that person then?

It seems to me that white cane travel is always going to be a fundamental skill that every blind person should be encouraged to possess and acquire.

Amos: And maybe that’s how O&M training should evolve.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Amos: Yeah, that it embraces the capabilities and the efficiencies that the technology brings. And with that brings a million more people out and about, which is ultimately what this is about. There are millions of people out there who don’t benefit from the cane today, for a whole variety of reasons, right? And so if we can start to get these people out and about, maybe the combination of these technologies will allow orientation and mobility to become more efficient and effective. Instead of somebody having to spend 250 hours with a new blind person, maybe they now have to spend 30 hours work on the structured discovery and core cane skills, but let Glide take care of the rest.

I don’t know the answer. That’s why we’re having the conversation. But maybe, that’s where the opportunity comes, that all of a sudden, orientation mobility instructors can have a much bigger caseload and spend less time with one individual.

Jonathan: The white cane is an interesting thing because some people see it as a symbol of independence and they wield it with pride, and other people see it as a very public statement of their blindness and they’re not ready for that. So it is quite a highly charged issue, I think.

Amos: Yeah. And I’m not deliberately skirting around the issue. I completely acknowledge those issues. I talk to people on both sides. That issue is not going to change. It’ll be interesting to see how people relate to Glide.

We’re trying to position Glide as a consumer device. Something that you order, you’re excited to get, you open up, it gives you a great onboarding experience. It looks good, it feels great, it’s super responsive. You know, all of the things that you’d expect from a great consumer device.

And maybe that’s you know, uncle Harold who’s been losing his sight from glaucoma and said, “oh, don’t talk to me about being blind.”, even though he can’t see anything. Maybe he’d be happy to get a device like this, right?

Jonathan: Right. Yeah, I see that, yeah.

Amos: And then maybe he will start to go around and he’ll say, “Well, you know, it’s actually not so bad.” And maybe, he will be more open to exploring how he can get more independent again.

Jonathan: I know that you know that I get to ask you about pricing models, and it sounds like it may be a bit too early. But do you have any concept of what this thing will cost, whether it would be a subscription model, how it would work?

Amos: Yeah. I mean, I can definitely address that question.

We are working towards making sure that this is not only a very easy to use device, very powerful device, but also affordable. And when I say affordable, I mean that most people should be able to get one either directly, and in some cases, with some help. We don’t want that to be the only way that people can get hold of Glide. And so we are working towards the model of what it costs to own a cellphone.

Most people can own a cellphone. They’ll buy a device. They might buy it with a prepaid subscription that gives them everything that they need, or there is some form of a subscription that enables the more advanced features that somebody like you who travels a lot and needs, but may not be needed by somebody who really walks down the path to visit their sister on the weekend.

But that’s it. So basically, a combination of a device purchase and a range of subscription levels that kind of open up access to the more complex data and AI capabilities that Glide offers.

Jonathan: And will it be available internationally? You mentioned that you have people from all around the world talking with you. So you are envisaging it being an internationally available product?

Amos: Absolutely. We envisage that.

What I can say is that our goal is to be completely open and transparent about when we plan to get to the different countries. We don’t intend to limit this to only country X and country Y.

The only limitations are going to be about making sure that we can ship consumer products in those countries.

While it’s very important for me that the the local organizations are embracing, and we’re making contact with local organizations in different countries, I also see this as a consumer device, and I want the consumers to decide what they want to do.

Jonathan: That’s a really interesting point because there’s a bit of capture that goes on in the blindness industry, isn’t there, from blindness agencies? And that capture isn’t absolutely necessary.

Although that said, safety is a big deal. And if people start going around using these devices and run into some sort of safety issues, that’s clearly going to be a pretty difficult challenge for the company to deal with.

Amos: Yeah, we’ll have to play it wisely.

I think that the agencies are a critical part of this. We’re already talking to some agencies, and we’ll continue to develop those conversations. And we urge agencies to reach out so that if this is of interest, we want to get to the point that people really understand what it means.

And once we have devices, people will be able to start trying them and getting their head around it. And let’s figure out what’s the right way.

Jonathan: What’s the best way for people to keep up with how Glide is going, and the way that you’re thinking, and perhaps even have input into the final version of the product?

Amos: The best way is to go onto our website,, and register with us.

First of all, we are planning to open a pre-order program sometime in the spring. And we urge people to register if they’re interested, and we will be in touch when that option opens.

It’s a very exciting time for the company to prepare for that pre-order program, and I want to emphasize 2 aspects to it.

To build a device as complex as this, you need top engineers and quite a bit of capital. The world of venture capital and financial investment don’t always believe that this kind of device is the best and most important technology that the blind and low vision community need, and they don’t always believe the numbers because you remember the average person only sees the extremely competent cane users and guide dog users. They don’t see all the people who don’t get out of their homes.

So where I’m going with this, Jonathan, is that we have to, as a community, show that this is something that is very important to us. And by registering and by pre-ordering Glide, we as a company are able to demonstrate to the investors and to everybody else that this is a real business, okay? That this is something that is worth investing in because it has a very significant impact potential.

Please come on to our website, register with us, and that also opens up your ability to join our Glider meetups the last Wednesday of every month, where you can join us for Zoom call and talk to us, and share your experiences. Tell us what you like, what you don’t like. You’ll get information from us on a regular basis about development, and you really start to become part of the Glidance community as we evolve and develop the product. We already have over almost a thousand people in the group, and we invite folks to sign up and join, and be part of this critical mission.

Jonathan: Amos, I’ve really enjoyed this discussion. It’s taken me back to my product management days in the assistive technology industry where we’ve discussed really interesting philosophical questions that have to be determined, and that shape the future of a product.

And there’s no doubt the genie is out of the bottle. So this kind of a product, whether it’s Glide, or others like it, or all of them is coming, ready or not, and it’s important that blind people have their say in terms of what they want these products to be.

So I do commend you on being so open and transparent about making sure that we’re all having a say in the design of this, and I look forward to finding out where it goes.

I’m sure we’ll talk again, and I really appreciate your time.

Amos: Jonathan, thank you. I’m smiling, and I really enjoyed the conversation. I appreciate the probing questions, and look forward to many more conversations like this. Thank you.

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Guiding in the Swimming Pool

Mike May is responding to our conversation about swimming, and whether there is anything that you can use to assist you in this effort when you’re in the pool. Not the FieldSpace NaviBelt, as we’ve already established.

And mike says:

“The easiest approach in a pool is to swim along the wall, although it isn’t efficient to keep bumping into things.

Shocks and others have waterproof headphones. Seems like that would be a way to connect to a sighted guide on land.

There are a lot of blind swimmers, so I’m sure others with more experience will respond.”

Takes me back to my days in the swimming pool at the school for the blind. Not all of which were particularly happy, I can tell you. [laughs]

But they did use to have lanes that they would attach to various parts of the railing. So you were in your lane, and it was tactfully distinguishable because you’d have these ropes on either side of you, and that kept you straight.

But I appreciate that’s not going to be an option available to people when they’re in a public pool.

Non-24 and Managing Insomnia

Thomas Solich is in touch on a subject that’s near and dear to many of us.

He says:

“Happy spring from Ohio, Jonathan.”

Well I’m jealous, Thomas. But spring will come to us in September, when you get into the autumn or fall. And then, we’ll have our little laugh at that point, you see.

Thomas says:

“Ever since COVID times, I have experienced increasing trouble going to sleep. This peaks in the Midwest US for me, for both in the fall surrounding daylight saving time and when we spring forward, as we say.

Prior to the pandemic, I listened to several of your episodes on this topic, but did not believe I had non-24 pre-pandemic.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve since developed non-24, and I began taking 9mg of melatonin. The versions I have tried seem to cause me some hangover period the next morning.

Do you or your listeners believe Hetlioz is the preferred or advanced drug in the US to manage non-24 and the related insomnia? I frequently travel rigorously on business in fundamental capacities, and I am determined to restore my previously dependable sleep and wake patterns.

I recently turned 40 in March, …”

Well, happy birthday!

“and I’m determined to refresh and increase health efficiencies.

If I manage these sleep issues, I can resume my early-to-bed, early-to-rise pre-pandemic routines that promote comprehensive well-being and efficient productivity.

I’m hoping for some verification from you or this stellar blind community whether Hetlioz or any other specific drug is the most appropriate solution, namely in the US. Once I receive any feedback, I am quite certain my doctor will prescribe it for me to get started.

If Hetlioz is not recommended, perhaps you or the listener community might also report on which brands and dosage of melatonin or similar solutions have worked with the highest consistency.

Truly, thank you again for the opportunities and offerings you provide us.

Some people have on their bucket list to meet Stevie Wonder or Paul McCartney.

I have already been fortunate enough to have a one-on-one with Stevie in Anaheim in 2017, when Yamaha asked me to personally demonstrate for him their new line of premium SX Grand Pianos being debuted in the US.

With that rare honor under my belt, it is now my high goal to meet Jonathan Mosen one of these years.”


“Last year, when I was inspired by your NFB keynote, it reminded me that I still intend to coordinate with you and Bonnie this decade when your advocacy brings you again to the US.

Should you ever have a spare evening when you visit one of the conventions in California or Texas, please place me on your shortlist to entertain and host you with a world-class 5-star no-carb,” Wow! “dining experience that you will never forget. Well, we might convince you to cheat if we can find a 1 pound fully loaded hot baked potato with all the trimmings to go alongside your American Wagyu ribeye.

Bonnie and Heidi must join us too, if either of them accompany you across the pond.

I’m dead serious. You and Living Blindfully chop the charts in your unmatched global contributions to our community in this digital age. Thank you.”

Well thank you, Thomas. I look forward to the meal.

We are going to be in Orlando. That’s not California or Texas, but we are going to be there, and we’re looking forward to that.

Now, usual disclaimer, you should seek medical advice and all that kind of thing.

I understand that at its heart, Hetlioz is based on melatonin, but it’s very refined. It’s a particular grade and dosage, and it’s all been very carefully researched. I have heard of some blind people who’ve had really great luck with it.

Unfortunately, it’s not available in New Zealand, and I really wish that it were. I’d like to try it, to see what happens.

My hunch though, Thomas, is that you’re feeling groggy with the melatonin because nine milligrams is way too much.

What I would do is start with quite a low dose, and see how you get on, how much is just enough to start restoring your sleep cycle to something regular and increase it gradually, if you feel you need to.

I used to take 2 and a half milligrams of melatonin. I now take five every night, and I take it about 90 minutes before I would like to start to go to sleep. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it was.

My big challenge is actually waking up in the night, and particularly when you have a busy schedule.

I’m a chief executive by day, so I have a lot of things on my mind. And I’m just the kind of person that if I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m awake long enough that my brain starts to whir away, I find it very hard to switch off again and go back to sleep. And I’ve got all sorts of ways of trying to do that ? meditations, sleep radio stations, and a thing called Brain FM that’s quite interesting. And sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t.

But I’m not convinced that that’s necessarily non-24. It’s just the pressure of being a chief executive, I think. And sometimes, you just have a lot of big things to think about.

So if anyone has tried the Hetlioz drug, has it worked for you? I’d be interested in knowing this, actually. I did talk to someone a few years ago who was just effusive about it, and said it changed their life completely. So if you’ve tried it, ?

I know they advertise it, don’t they? And at some of the conventions, you see them there as well.

So let me know how it’s worked out for you., 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736.

You did ask about brands. The one I like is Source Naturals. That’s N-A-T-U-R-A-L-S. And it’s a sublingual one. It comes in different flavors like orange and peppermint. And you put it under your tongue, and it just dissolves, and it’s pretty pleasant and it seems to do the job.

There is also this thing called time-released melatonin. And I’ve thought about going back and trying that again to see if it might help with the waking up in the middle of the night thing that I sometimes get. But I’ve not tried that yet because, as I say, I think a lot of this waking up in the middle of the night thing is due to just stuff going on at work that I have to think about. So time-released melatonin may also be worth a try.

I also can’t help making a few comments about Yamaha stuff. I’ve got a Yamaha weighted piano upstairs, one of those ones that has the accompaniment section, So you can turn it into like an electronic organ of old. I forget the model number, but it’s got some great samples.

I purchased it about 2017 because I used to play professionally a long time ago. Now, my first paid job was when I was 14 years old, and they hired me to go around the shopping malls in Christchurch. We lived in Auckland then.

So they flew me down to Christchurch on the plane, (That was very exciting. My sister came as a chaperone.), put us up in a very nice hotel, and I would go to all these different shopping malls and play the organ.

Although, that was not a Yamaha organ. The one they gave me to play was a Hammond Composer. That was an amazing organ because it had the Hammond drawbars on it. Oh my goodness! You could get some great sort of grungy organ sounds with those drawbars configured correctly. And I played that for 2 weeks.

Got a lot of money for a 14-year-old kid. I think they paid me $2,100 for 2 weeks of work, [laughs] hooning around the shopping mall, playing the organ.

My very first one was called a Baldwin Fun Machine. I got that given to me by a radio station I was associated with when I was 7 or 8. They gave me that for Christmas, which was pretty extraordinary.

And we upgraded that to another Yamaha. I forget that model number, two. Not doing very well, am I?

But then, I got the Yamaha C605. I do remember that model number. That was a really good organ for its time.

And because I had some contact in the electronic organ industry in the 1980s, I did get to play the Yamaha FX-20. That was the first device that I can remember, actually, that used genuine instrument samples.

So with the C605, for example, you had instruments that synthetically sounded like roughly what they were meant to be, if you were lucky.

But when you got to the FX-20, they had actually sampled instruments and you got sampled pianos, flutes, and different things. And the drums, man, the drums. There were so many good rhythms. And you could tell what some of them were aiming for. There was one particular rhythm in that Yamaha FX-20 that was clearly intended to play Just The Way You Are with the Billy Joel song. It was just so exactly ripping off that whole Just The Way You Are drum pattern going on there.

I also got to play at the Logan Campbell Center in 1984 at the Easter show. I was part of a really cool group called Theatre Unlimited. It was a theatre group for disabled people, and a whole lot of us were performing at the Easter show. And I was playing the organ, and that was a Yamaha, and I think it was called the P-55. I may have that wrong, but I don’t think I’ve got that wrong.

And the thing about that P-55 was you could completely program a song into it. And we’d have this gag where, you know, I’d be sitting there playing all the songs. But then, there’d be one particular song that I’d program the whole thing in, and I’d switch it on and look like I was playing, and then walk off the stage and the keyboard would keep playing.

It was a cool gimmick, except a lot of people then assumed I was never playing anything, that the whole thing was just set up and that I wasn’t really playing any keyboard at all. So a bit of an own goal there, I suppose, in some ways.

Anyway, that is a way non-sequitur. But you mentioned Yamaha and Stevie Wonder, of course, and so I just had to waffle on about some of the keyboards I’ve had over the years.

And I got out of it. I mean, I had an acoustic piano for a while when the kids were young, and I’d sit there and play songs for Pass the Parcel and various things, and for their amusement and that kind of thing.

But when my dad died in 2017, I had the sudden urge to play again. It was really strange. I just felt like it was a really good outlet. It was good therapy.

So I got a good keyboard back in the house, and I can’t play decently anymore to save my life because I just don’t practice enough, and I don’t sit down at the keyboard enough.

But I play for me, and I find it very therapeutic.

Boycotting Israeli Technology Products

As you know if you’ve been listening to this show for a long time, I’ve always viewed Living Blindfully as more than a technology show. That does put some people off. I appreciate that. But I do think there is a place for good-quality current affairs coverage through a blindness lens. We, like everybody else, live in the world, and there are important things going on in the world.

It is on that basis that I read this email about a very sensitive subject, and I will do my very best to handle this issue with the sensitivity that it deserves.

It is from Ali Kazi, and he says:

“Today, I am writing regarding something which is topical in world news, which I am sure you and many listeners worldwide have been keeping abreast of. It is a topic which is extremely distressing. But nonetheless, important to discuss. I am writing regarding the current conflict taking place in Gaza.

I have done my best to approach this topic in a manner which is sensitive, respectful, and mindful of the fact that many Living Blindfully listeners may have been directly impacted by the devastatingly awful and avoidable loss of life which is currently taking place. I know how saddened I am and how saddened ordinary citizens are at simply seeing or hearing about what is happening in Gaza.

But we, safe in our homes far away, surely cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for those who have lost loved ones, who have watched loved ones perish, and who cannot provide food or water for babies and children because of the level of devastation currently being endured.

My thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected.

I will set out why I am writing to this podcast, and why the conflict now has a bearing on the blind community. The angle from which I approach what I am about to say is neither political nor religious, but humanitarian. Humanitarian issues are applicable to all of us and affect all of us, irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity, or any other characteristic. We are all human, and the vast majority of human beings are good, decent people who care deeply when our fellow human beings are suffering injustice. The blind community is a great example of that level of togetherness and solidarity.

I will now briefly set out some facts.

As a result of the military operation of bombardment being carried out by the Israeli Defense Force in Gaza, the death toll in Gaza has exceeded 30,000 in less than 6 months, with many more injured and at risk of starvation and malnutrition. Many of those are children.

The Israeli Defense Force continues to allow only a very small amount of aid to enter the Gaza Strip, which doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface in terms of the food, water, and medical aid which is required. Israel’s view is that its military operations are a proportionate response to the attacks carried out in Israel by the terrorist group Hamas on the 7th of October, 2023.

However, we must not shy away from facts. The facts are that the International Court of Justice, perhaps the highest court in the world, handed down a judgment on the 26th of January, 2024 in which it found there was a plausible case for genocide being carried out by Israel. And it ordered Israel to take all measures to refrain from genocide, and to take immediate and effective measures to ensure humanitarian aid was allowed.

As I write this, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and the Joe Biden administration, in the form of US Vice President Kamala Harris, said, “The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses.” In the UK, where I live, hundreds of thousands of people have been taking to the streets for months, peacefully protesting.

I feel compelled to write to you because the blind community is expecting an announcement in the near future about the release of the Optima, the newest blindness notetaker off the block. Half of the credit for this notetaker being released will go to Orbit Research, but the other half belongs to what I believe is an Israel-based company called AccessMind, founded by Adi Kushnir, who has, of course, appeared on Living Blindfully in the past.

I should say right off the bat that in no way am I seeking to personally connect Adi Kushnir or his company with the terrible military operation being carried out by his country’s government, nor am I seeking in any way whatsoever to hold him responsible.

However, what I do say is that as an invariable consequence of him being an Israeli citizen domiciled in Israel, it would be fair to assume that he has an obligation to pay taxes to the Israeli government. It is likely that some of those taxes would be attributed to the armed forces, and therefore to the current military bombardment in Gaza.

Therefore, to purchase the Optima may indirectly constitute purchasing arms which would be used, and which have been used in the Gaza bombardment. For this reason, I will not be purchasing the Optima. I have spoken with many others in our community who feel the same way.

I am sending this in to you not only to bring the point to the attention of our community, but also to encourage Adi Kushnir to respond in this public forum and if legally and practically possible, to reassure the community that profits gained from the sale of the Optima will not be used as I have stated.

A parallel can be drawn with the ElBraille and its loss of popularity. The ElBraille is manufactured by the Russian company Elita Group. And I was told by Sight & Sound, Freedom Scientific’s UK distributor, that they had stopped selling the ElBraille because of the military operation carried out by the Russian government in Ukraine.

If that is the case and the ElBraille was indeed boycotted, then I consider the same would be appropriate in the case of the Optima. We, the blind community, should stand with the people of Gaza, just like we and this podcast rightly stood with the people of Ukraine.”

Thank you for your contribution, Ali.

First, I want to express empathy for all innocent people caught up in conflict. It’s one thing to read about the horrors of being in a war zone, but I don’t think I can truly imagine what it’s like to actually live in one.

Blindness causes additional dangers. And of course, war also results in people becoming blinded.

Second, I want to express my horror and outrage at the barbaric terrorist atrocity carried out against innocent people on the 7th of October, 2023. People lost their lives in that attack. Others were subjected to ongoing violence and torture, including sexual violence. There are apparently still hostages being held. To be in a country where such an attack was perpetrated must cause shock, anger, and a desire to bring those responsible to justice.

And third, I do agree with the groundswell of opinion that Israel’s response to the attack has long ago become disproportionate. Gaza has, in the words of New Zealand’s own foreign minister, become a wasteland. Not only have 32,000 people been killed now, millions have been displaced, famine is imminent. I’ve spoken with several Israeli citizens who, while traumatized and angry as a result of the 7th of October terrorist attack, are ashamed of their government’s response, which they fear will only worsen a complex situation and make peace less likely.

We all have various reasons why we may choose or decline to purchase a product. And in the end, that is a personal decision for each of us.

Sometimes, nations impose sanctions. And other times, we may choose to impose a personal sanction for a raft of reasons, whether it be the company’s business practices, the behavior of a representative of a company, or taking a stand over the actions of a particular country’s government.

And before we do that and boycott a product that could make our lives more productive and richer, it is important, I think, for us to do our due diligence and research.

So naturally, I asked Adi Kushnir if he would like to offer a response. He did so, and I’m reading it out in full.

“Dear Jonathan and Living Blindfully listeners,

I’m writing today to answer the concerns raised by your listener regarding Optima, AccessMind, and me being an Israeli citizen due to the ongoing war between Israel and Gaza.

Let me begin by saying that I understand the moral dilemma brought upon us humans when trying to do the right thing. I believe that such efforts are commendable, and have the incredible potential to make the world a much better place.

However, in order to direct such efforts in the desired direction, that is, a direction that yields positive results Instead of negative ones, we need objectivity. And in order to get there, we need information and truth.

Therefore, I would like to address the concerns of the contributor by presenting here some pertinent facts that many of the listeners may not be aware of regarding AccessMind, my personal work in the assistive technology industry, and also about the ongoing war. This topic is very hard for me, like for many of us, so I am going to write the facts as they are.

In the first place, I would like to clarify that AccessMind is not an Israeli, but an American company. That is, a company registered in the United States of America, with a major part owned by Orbit Research, and the rest owned by me, an Israeli citizen.

Many people might have their own reasons why not to purchase a particular product, including political ones. Think of a situation where, for example, some people might choose not to purchase a particular product if a specific president might be re-elected in the United States. Every one of us is allowed to act according to their own views and opinions.

Secondly, yes, I am indeed Israeli, just as much as every Jewish, Arab Christian, and Arab Muslim born in this land. And I, just like them all, are proud to be Israeli, proud of my culture and my identity, as much as I am proud of being blind.

I feel I must clarify, however, that my moral and political views are not in alignment with our current government’s actions in many fronts. I am sure this is most likely the situation in which many citizens in any of the democracies in the world find themselves in nowadays.

Thirdly, I would like to thank all of you in the UK, Europe, the US, and everywhere else for your continuous support, and for believing in the dream of me and my friends to help all of us blind people in the world no matter their race, nationality, ethnicity, or any other characteristic, to be able to enjoy the benefits of the most cutting-edge mainstream technology, combined with the form factors we know and love. To this day, the interest in Optima and in all that AccessMind can achieve is high and growing, and that is immensely important for me. This interest comes from all parties including end users, distributors from all around the world, and assistive tech vendors.

One of my primary goals with AccessMind is to give blind users the possibility to access information and resources available out there, in a way just as convenient and easy as the mainstream user is used to by now. This has been an objective of mine for as long as I have worked in this field for more than 12 years. And in many cases, advances that I was part of and work I have done.

For example, regarding right-to-left language support for major screen readers like Hebrew and Arabic, has benefited my enemies as well as friends. And by enemies, I mean people that want me, my family, my neighbors, and all of Israel dead or without a home. I have received quite a few emails over the years from blind people who use my work without even knowing that I am behind it, telling me that I should be displaced, and many other things I don’t even want to discuss.

And while it was hard, I always continued to advocate for their right to access information in Arabic or any other language that they speak, and I am continuing to work on this up until this day.

Many of you don’t know, but most of the work I have done in this field is being used by people in countries that don’t have any relationships with Israel at all. And I am proud of this, since I believe that access to information is a basic human right, and I will continue to advocate for all of it. This also includes Gaza, the Palestinian authorities, and many others. I am personally working to support blind individuals in this region to grow and accomplish their missions.

Fourthly, I would like to address the partial and deeply flawed and distorted picture maintained by the contributor regarding the ongoing war, maybe through no fault of their own, but due to the fact that since they are not in the region, it may be very difficult for them to access a complete view of the whole scenario.

In order to shed some light over the obscured part of the picture, I will share with you all a few hard facts that can be easily proven.

  1. Israel is not deployed in Gaza since 2005.

Israel had to forcefully drag Jewish people from their houses, from the land they had lived in for generations, in order for the state of Israel to withdraw completely from Gaza, to let the Palestinians build their own state. All the facilities were there. The Jewish living there even took their dead with them, which is proof that they had been there for a very long time. But they left greenhouses, pipes, and other infrastructure to aid Palestinians.

Unfortunately, Hamas destroyed all of it.

  1. In January 2006, the Palestinian territories held their last parliamentary elections, and Hamas won over the Palestinian Authority.

What did the Palestinian Authority do, you may wonder? Perhaps they became the opposition, like in any democracy, to ensure balance and the well-being of people.

No, its members were either expelled from Gaza or even worse, killed by Hamas, who does not care about Palestinians at all.

  1. After Hamas took power, they started digging deep tunnels to launch terrorist attacks against Israel, and to protect themselves and their families, not the Palestinian citizens they are supposed to protect against Israel’s efforts to stop the bombings and other attacks against its own civilian population. Estimates suggest that Hamas’s tunnel network stretches at least between 350 and 450 miles, with over 5,700 entrance shafts.
  2. Almost 20 years, the Israeli farmers living in the south of Israel were bombed every day by Hamas. Their fields were burned down. Many of them were killed and hurt. People were sleeping in special anti-bomb or safe rooms.

Despite the threats coming their way from Gaza, the Southerners tried to help Palestinians to cross into Israel to reach medical help, something that Hamas was supposed to provide.

  1. Up until October 7th, thousands of Palestinians were crossing every day to Israel to work because in Israel, they had opportunities, something that was very difficult to find in Gaza.
  2. Hamas uses civilian facilities, like hospitals, schools and kindergartens, to store weapons and firearms. Therefore, part of the destruction in Gaza is caused by those arsenals exploding.
  3. On October 7, 3000 armed people, some of them drugged and intoxicated from alcohol, penetrated Israel at [6:30] in the morning. These invaders mutilated children in front of their parents, and parents in front of their children. They shoved babies into ovens and baked them to death. They took people, amongst them old people and people with disabilities, as hostages to Gaza, while mobs were beating them along the way. They brutally raped women, to the point that their pelvis was broken. And then, they shot them in the head. They butchered 1400 people with no mercy.

This is not a conflict. It is a war started by Hamas. Israel even sent leaflets to the population of Gaza, warning them and asking them to leave and take shelter.

But apparently, Hamas did not allow these people to leave, since they needed the terrible and painful loss of Palestinian lives so they could capitalize on that suffering and blame Israel for it. A dynamic that unfortunately, is not new to us.

  1. Your listener says that many Living Blindfully listeners may have been directly impacted by the devastatingly awful and avoidable loss of life which is currently taking place. Unfortunately, this may be true. I cannot be sure how many of the blind and low vision people that lost everything listened to the podcast, since not everybody is that fluent in English in the region.

But I have personally heard heart-wrenching testimonies of blind and low vision people that lost everything, and many of them are Israeli too. I know this because I have helped some of them in Israel by donating technology to them after Palestinians from Gaza, not Hamas, took advantage of the opportunity to enter Israel, go into the desecrated homes, and climb over the corpses to loot and steal. Some of the victims of those horrid and atrocious deeds were Israeli, blind and low vision people, users of assistive technology, and their testimonies are horrifying.

We are also being bombed, displaced, terrorized, killed. Have you, dear listener, ever felt the impending doom of death coming to you from the air while a deafening siren that disorients you and makes panic rise inside of you like a choking wave sounds all around you because a bomb is being directed at the place you are in? I have, here in Israel, during Hamas’s bombing, since the day I am born.

  1. The people of Gaza need food, help, shelter. We agree on this. But getting them the means to that end is proving extremely difficult because Hamas steals all the aid that comes into Gaza and sells it to Gazans at very high prices. Whoever resists is shot. This is the reason Israel had to coordinate with Jordan parachuting aid to the people of Gaza.

Innocents were killed in Gaza, and in Israel as well. The loss of innocent life saddens me immensely. This is a war that Hamas has forced on all of us, both Israeli and Palestinian.

Unfortunately, I cannot be sure of the number of dead and wounded Gazans, since that information is reported by Hamas, a terrorist organization that has been found to provide false data.

I do pay Israeli taxes, like all of you pay taxes to your respective governments. Many of the countries we live in use taxes for military pursuits and ends.

There is also tax money used to save lives in the countries of the world. Israeli tax money, for instance, also goes to Israeli hospitals, who save and improve countless lives, both Israeli and Palestinian. Why would Palestinians seek medical aid in Israel, with all the help and money Gaza receives, and with all the hospitals they have is a question by now, you may be able to answer yourselves.

Even donations to UNRWA are being misdirected to aid Hamas in their terrorist campaign. There is evidence of many UNRWA employees partaking in the October 7th atrocities, for instance.

If anyone has any question they want to discuss about all of this, including Optima and AccessMind, I invite you to reach out to me at” (That’s A-D-I

Thank you, Adi, for putting this response together.

This is an incredibly divisive, contentious issue.

And when the Optima does come out, I’m sure there’ll be a range of factors that influence whether someone chooses to buy it or not.

But the situation in the region is heartbreaking in so many ways. And it’s topical, so it’s not surprising that it has come up here on Living Blindfully.


Advertisement: Transcripts of Living Blindfully are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at That’s P-N-E-U-M-A solutions dot com.

First Impressions of My Phonak Lumity Hearing Aid Trial

Most of this episode has been produced with the trusty old Oticon Open S1 hearing aids in my ears that I’ve been using for the last 5 years.

But I am actually producing this bit of the show with the brand new hearing aids that I’m trying at the moment. They’ve just come on the market. This is the Phonak Lumity with disposable batteries.

And people have written in to the podcast and got in touch on Mastodon to say, “Please let us know how you’re getting on with this.”

And at the time of recording, i’ve only been using these hearing aids for around about 12 hours, so it’s very early days.

But in a way, that’s not a bad thing because there’s a lot that’s fresh in my mind from the fitting, which went very well. we took a very long time to just go through all the parameters, and configure everything correctly. So here are some first impressions.

Just to recap, the reason why I decided to go with a trial of the Phonak Lumity first and not stay with Oticon, which I really enjoyed is first, the new Oticon technology does not have, at this stage, a disposable battery option. For my lifestyle, I’m just not prepared to go with a rechargeable option. It may be a really good solution for many people. But as someone who still does a bit of international travel, I just didn’t feel comfortable with the rechargeable option because sometimes, I might be door-to-door up to 40 hours of travel, even longer at times. And of course, there’s always the chance that some emergency happens and you haven’t charged up. I just feel so much more secure and safe with the idea that I can carry some batteries with me and swap out the batteries at any time.

Unfortunately, there is just no word on whether Oticon will ever offer a version of their new Oticon Intent hearing aid with disposable batteries.

The second reason why I decided to try the Phonak option is because of all the accessories and solutions that it has with it. And I seem to have struck gold, at least in this regard.

As I’ve mentioned on my hearing aid journey blogs and podcasts over the years, one of the things that I’ve been very fortunate to have discovered when I started using behind the ear hearing aids is this idea of a direct audio input cable. So you can have a cable that goes from a special outlet in your hearing aids to a 3.5 millimeter headphone jack, and you can plug right in.

And it’s not just useful for situations like mine in a studio, where I’m connecting to a mixer and I don’t want any latency. It’s also pretty handy to just plug into an ATM, all kinds of things.

When I last had a look at the market back in 2019, I found some of the Widex offerings quite promising, particularly for listening to music. But one of the downsides of Widex was the horribly inaccessible app. And also, when they were offering me various solutions to replace this cable that were wireless-based, they were in mono, or there was too much latency. And I want stereo, and I want as little latency as possible.

I know some people get by with headphones and various other workarounds. I find I get quite a lot of screeching feedback if I try to wear headphones, although we were working on that in the fitting.

But it turns out that wireless technology has come a long way.

Many people will have heard of the Roger solutions that are available from Phonak. These are wireless microphones, and they come in various form factors for various purposes.

When you’re using Roger with another brand of hearing aid, you have to get some sort of receiver that you attach to your aid in some way, or you can use a streaming solution from the manufacturer whose hearing aid you have.

With the Phonak hearing aids, understandably, Roger is built right in. It just switches on, and works once it’s all set up with your hearing aid.

There is a cable that you can get for Roger that goes from the USB-C port at the base of the Roger On that I have, to a 3.5 millimeter headphone plug that I can then plug into my mixer, laptop, or whatever.

So this is actually very portable. You can take it to other people’s computers, you can use it in an ATM. And if you want to use this all day long as I do in my studio which also doubles as my home office, you can put the Roger On in a little cradle that comes with it. You then connect the cradle to some power, and it will stay powered all day long. And there’s a cable that will go from the base of the cradle to a 3.5 millimeter headphone jack so that’s not a portable solution, but it’s a great at-your-desk solution if you want to do audio conferencing or recording, as I do.

This is not using Bluetooth. It is using some sort of proprietary wireless streaming, sort of 2.4 gigahertz, I believe, kind of like the same spectrum that Wi-Fi uses.

I’m not saying that the latency is 0 with this, but it’s really negligible. They reckon they’re getting between about 17 and 20 milliseconds of latency.

What that means is that I’m sitting here with this Roger On connected to my mixer. I’ve got them to set the program in quite a linear fashion, so I’m not getting too much messing with the signal, minimal compression, limiting, that kind of thing. And while there is just the tiniest amount of latency that I can hear, it’s just not bothersome at all. I can easily talk naturally, and not feel like I’m hearing myself echoing back.

So this is real progress, because I was quite concerned about how I would substitute for the fact that there is no cable. So that is a major victory, and it’s great to have that sorted out. So I know I can continue producing the podcast. [laughs]

If you wear hearing aids now, you probably already know that most of them come with various programs for different listening situations.

With the Phonak Lumity aids, you get a rocker switch very similar to what I had on the Oticon Open S1 aids. But with the Oticon aids, you could push the top of it to cycle forward through your programs, and the bottom part of it to cycle backwards, which made it really easy to navigate through your programs.

I’m hoping that this is something that might be changeable by my audiologist. But at the moment, the top part of this rocker switch will move you forward through the programs if you hold it down.

The bottom part of the rocker switch serves a different function which is that if you hold it down, it mutes the microphone of the hearing aids. This can be very useful when you’re in the situation I’m in at the moment. I’m hearing nothing at all, other than what’s coming from my mixer. I have the microphones and the hearing aids muted, and I like it that way.

I also like the option to be able to mute the microphones of the hearing aids when I’m listening through the telecoil, but I would like to be able to cycle back through programs as well as forward, and at the moment that isn’t possible.

Another interesting feature of Phonak hearing aids in recent years has been that they have shunned the made-for-iPhone standard, and instead they’ve gone for a standard Bluetooth option. And that means that I have been able to pair my hearing aids already not only with my phone, but also with my ThinkPad and my Apple Watch. And it’s interesting that this is working so beautifully with the Apple Watch because the Apple Watch still does not work with made-for-iPhone hearing aids, but it does work with this. It also gives me a little bit of flexibility to switch to Android if I want to in future, because I’m not locked in to a particular protocol.

Now, Oticon does this too. You can pair it with Android phones, some of the newer devices. I couldn’t really do that very well at all with my current Oticon aids, but they’ve gone for a low energy Bluetooth profile. That is the future. Not too many devices support it yet, but it will be the future.

Unfortunately, Phonak is still working with Bluetooth 4.2, and you know what that means? The dreaded latency, it is noticeably more sluggish compared to my Oticon aids.

When, for example, I’m using touch typing and it’s echoing back, or I’m flicking through the screen, it really feels like I’ve got a very sluggish iPhone. It’s not unusable, but it’s noticeable enough to be annoying when I’ve been so spoiled by such low latency contact with my iPhone all these years.

The hearing aids will remember the last 8 devices that you paired with them, which is really cool. And you can switch seamlessly between two connected devices at any time, and the handover between those two devices for the most part is pretty nice.

I did have one situation where the Apple Watch was being a bit naughty about relinquishing the connection. But in general, and it’s very early days, I think the handover between devices is working as it should.

Oticon handles streaming quite differently from Phonak, in that on Oticon hearing aids, or at least the ones that I’ve been using, streaming is available on all the programs. That means you can just use your phone, get a notification. It does its thing. It doesn’t interfere with the program that you’re in.

On the other hand, when something happens on Phonak, that means that your phone is talking to you through VoiceOver, you’re getting a notification sound, anything like that, it switches to its own unique bluetooth streaming program, and then switches back again when there’s no activity on the channel.

I don’t like that very much. I like the way that Otacon implemented it.

But I have to say, when I heard music streaming through this thing from my iPhone, it was quite emotional. I haven’t heard music that well through hearing aids before. It was absolutely fantastic, and I’m sure that all the new hearing aids have made big improvements in the way that music sounds. It was glorious. It was full. It was rich. There was plenty of genuine bass going on in there, and it sounded just fantastic.

Before I started my trial, one thing I did not like about the Phonak Aids is that you cannot switch off a feature which makes the microphones of your hearing aids the microphone that is used when a phone call comes in. I have had conversations with hearing aid wearers in the past who’ve used Phonak Aids, and they’ve really not sounded all the best.

But I have to say the quality has improved quite a bit. And when I called Bonnie, she actually commented on how good it sounds. And Bonnie, she agrees herself, is not really an audio person. But she did pick up on how good she thought the audio sounded from my phone call, so it does seem to be okay.

What remains to be seen is how well does it do in a noisy environment? If somebody gives you a call in an airport or in a noisy restaurant, how well is it going to do then?

And if you have trouble in that regard, this is another reason why you might want the latest Roger On version 2 because they’ve got a feature built into that that allows you to use the Roger On as a microphone for phone calls. It doesn’t work with the original Roger On. You have to get the version 2.

The Roger On has various modes of directionality. So if you are in a crowd, you can take the Roger mic, you can point it at you, and it’s going to filter out a lot of the background noise. And that may make phone calls a bit easier in an environment like that, if they prove problematic.

Although I have to ask, Phonak. Why don’t you just allow people to choose to use the iPhone microphone if they want to? Other hearing aid manufacturers do. Phonak does not.

I have had a couple of situations where when a phone call has come in, it hasn’t been routed to my hearing aids, and I’ve had to put the phone to my ear. Luckily, that does seem to work all right. But I’m still trying to work out the cause of that.

There is an option in the Phonak app relating to the bandwidth of the phone calls. And it seems that if you set it to the lower bandwidth, it appears to be a bit more reliable. And I can’t notice an appreciable improvement in the audio quality of phone calls if I switch it onto the higher bandwidth setting. So if going with the lower option gives you more reliability, I’m happy to do that.

And while we’re talking about the app, Scott Davert has made this point on this podcast before. the MyPhonak app is the best hearing aid app from an accessibility point of view that I have personally seen. It is 100% accessible, as far as I’ve been able to tell at the moment.

And you do have a lot of features. You can actually go in and create your own programs. You can set speech clarity, background noise, do a whole bunch of stuff.

But this circles me back to my complaints about the Bluetooth implementation, and I’ll try and explain this clearly. Since there’s only one program that actually incorporates bluetooth streaming and since you can only adjust the parameters of a program when the program is active, you really need a Braille display to get a lot of high-level configuration done. Because for example, if you go into the automated program where a lot of the magic happens (and they recommend that you leave it on the automated program as much as possible), you cannot use VoiceOver at that point. So you can do all sorts of tweaks, but only with a Braille display. And this is a weakness, I think, of Phonak’s implementation of Bluetooth streaming.

But I love having all this control of the way that the hearing aid sounds.

And of course, they also, as do many hearing aid manufacturers now, have this ability to provide audiological assistance to you remotely. So you can have a remote session with your audiologist, and they can tweak away. It might be if you’ve got an audiologist who’s willing to give you a quick 5 or 10 minutes if something’s really bothering you during a trial, then you’re able to do that whenever it’s convenient for you both without having to go into the clinic. So easy does it and all that.

As I say, I’ve only had these hearing aids about 12 hours, as I put this together and get the podcast done. So getting the studio thing sorted was absolutely critical, so I could do this podcast for you.

But I haven’t done any traveling out and about, other than catching an Uber home from the audiology fitting. And that’s my homework for the weekend – to get out and about on a range of settings, and see how it does in noise because there are all sorts of AI advancements and things that have gone on with hearing technology since I got the last hearing aids that I’m using. So the journey continues.

And if you are using hearing aids that you like, or you’ve perhaps discarded hearing aids that didn’t work for you, there are a surprising number of blind people who use hearing aids and it’s an interesting topic. So you’re welcome to get in touch, and I will continue to share my journey.

What I will probably do when it’s all over and I’ve made a choice is write a blog post in the same way that I did back in 2019. And people seem to really enjoy having that post to refer to.

So I don’t think I’ve been too grumpy yet.

And speech definitely does sound better. Just sitting around the dinner table with Bonnie, that kind of thing. It does sound nicer and easier. So we’ll see how we go with this exciting adventure. I will keep you posted.

But I can promise you this one thing. When Bonnie tells me that it’s time for me to take out the recycling, unfortunately, I still won’t be able to hear. [laughs]

Closing and Contact Info

Anyway, I’m off now. Thank you very much for listening to the podcast! I appreciate it. Will look forward to being back with you next week.

And remember that when you’re out there with your guide dog, you’ve harnessed success. And with your cane, you’re able.


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