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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen, this is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. Today, I’m going to catch you up on my holiday break and give you a cautionary tale about customer service, more Apple Braille problems and Mike May and Gena Harper talk with us about the Consumer Electronics Show of 2022. Mosen At Large podcast. [Singing].
Welcome, it is a very relaxed, a bit sunburn but invigorated Jonathan back with you for 2022 and I’m so glad that you are back with us. I hope you had a great break, whether it was summer or winter, where you are. When I was a kid and I’d come back from those seemingly endless long summer holidays. We would go through this ritual of talking about what we did in our holidays, particularly when we were younger, primary school kids. And I don’t know whether that’s a universal thing, I’m not sure if it’s something that just happens in New Zealand or not. But I do feel compelled to talk a bit more, to do a bit more solo stuff than normal on this first episode for 2022, to tell you about some of the things that I got up to. The most important thing was my son David’s wedding.
And I know that some people have been listening to me for so long that they remember when David was born. And, in fact, by the time he was born in 2000, I was doing ACB Radio and I got so many wonderful messages congratulating us on David’s birth, it was really special. Now he’s all married, I don’t know where that time went, but it was a very special day. They opted for an outdoor wedding. It was a scorcher out there, it was about 28 degrees Celsius. That’s pretty warm when you’re out there on a hot day anyway and Bonnie was making this point to me, she said, most people in America would think that 28 degrees Celsius is not that hot, but it’s one of the hottest days that she can recall. And one of the reasons for that is, I think, that the whole above us in the ozone layer, really means that heat comes through and you do get very burned and I’ve got fair skin.
So, I’ve still got a bit of sunburn from last weekend’s wedding to remember the wedding by. And while we were waiting for Joanna to turn up, I was tracking her arrival on the find my app, which is not something that you used to be able to do in weddings of old and Bonnie kept saying to me, where is she? Where is she? But eventually I had to stop doing that. And the reason why I had to stop doing it was because I got a prompt that I have never seen on my iPhone before. It came up and it said, you can’t use your iPhone until it’s cooled down. And the only button on the screen was an emergency calls button. I guess, it decided that if you really need to call emergency services, it was going to try. I had also a repeat of the experience that I had four years ago when my oldest daughter, Heidi, got married, where my Apple Watch pinged me and said, you’ve got a high heart rate for somebody who’s just sitting there, is everything okay?
Part of that was the heat and part of it’s the emotion. It was a very beautiful ceremony. And when one of your kids gets married, that’s a pretty big occasion, isn’t it? So, it was memorable, there were one or two tech glitches. They were trying to use OBS to stream the ceremony out to YouTube and they had a few connectivity issues because we were out in the back of beyond a little bit, at a beautiful old homestead where the wedding took place. But nobody cares about that, all that people remember is that it was a wonderful ceremony. We had a great wedding reception where, I gave a wee speech and a fun party game ensued. It turned out that I have, for a reason that I will elucidate on a great length in a moment changed cellular networks and the network that I’m now on, Vodafone New Zealand was the only network to offer 5G in Whanganui where the wedding was taking place.
So we had geeks at my table representing all of the three major cellular carriers. I mean, there are quite a few virtual network operators in New Zealand, but there are three carriers that maintain physical cell towers. So just for fun. And while we were waiting for the food to arrive and the speeches to start on that sort of thing, we were just sitting there, chatting away and I said, let’s play a tech game. So we had Henry the wonder son-in-law on two degrees for those familiar, with New Zealand carriers. We had my spotty nephew Anthony on spark and Bonnie and me on Vodafone. And so we were doing these speed tests and Bonnie and I were getting 506 megabits down or something really nice like that. And then with these guys getting like 20, 30 megabits down, ah, ha it was fun. So there you go.
That’s how we fill in our time while we wait for things to happen at the wedding, but it was a very special time. And it’s great to have them both married as wonderful to have such a special person added to the Mosen family. In terms of the rest of my break. Well, it definitely had phases to it. I think it’s fair to say that it took me a while to slow down and to stop and to get into holiday mode. Part of the reason for that was a really disappointing experience that occurred just at the end of last year. As we’ve mentioned on this podcast, the New Zealand Government is going ahead and creating a ministry for disabled people. This is something that disabled people in New Zealand have been calling for for a long time. And essentially it gives disabled people, their own ministry, and doesn’t lump us in with health and other social security issues.
It is a really important public policy outcome. And as part of that process, the government has established a unit to help with the transition and the creation of this new ministry. The ministry itself is due to begin on the 1st of July. And the result of that process is that they have appointed a non-disabled person to head that transition units. And as you can appreciate, that’s quite a controversial and a very disappointing decision for many disabled people who really felt that this was a chance to turn the page that disabled people would be running their own destiny. The backlash, including from me has been pretty intense. And I think if there’s one silver lining to this cloud, it is that government has received the message loud and clear that if they don’t appoint a disabled person to the chief executive role when the ministry is established, there really is going to be significant political fallout from that.
But it’s such a shame that there are qualified disabled people out there who could do that role, who were not given the chance to do it. And it’s true that everybody needs support. Nobody can do every aspect of that role perfectly. But I think the key thing is that lived experience is something that you can’t teach, being embedded in the disability community, knowing the culture, knowing how to consult is really important. And for the government to think that it’s appropriate to appoint a non-disabled person to that transition role is a huge disappointment. And I’d like to hope that the very intense backlash that they received from that and the way that they dropped it on us at the beginning of Christmas week is a wake up call for them. And that they will not mess up the actual appointment of the chief executive role.
So it was a bit hard to wind down while that was going on. And I was involved in some media comment and social media comment and all of that sort of thing. But I did find that there were definitely some phases. For a while, I just slept, and I think whether you’re in leadership or not, but particularly if you’re in a leadership role, having gone through a couple of years of this pandemic and the twists and turns, and just trying to navigate an organization through that, it is mentally draining. And for me, it wasn’t until I stopped that I realized the extent to which I was mentally running on the smell of an oily rag as it were. So I slept a lot, just watched a lot of crickets and movies and slept and read fiction books and that sort of thing. And then by the middle of January, I was starting to come out of that and getting quite creative.
And as a result of that, we do have quite a few changes at Mushroom FM. Mushroom FM plays four decades of magic mushroom memories from the fifties through the eighties, it is staffed in the main by blind and low vision broadcasters. Most people listening to this show will be familiar with it. And there is a significantly expanded music library now from those four decades, so much more variety. We also have an Amazon thing, soup drinker, skill for both Mushroom FM and our sister station Mushroom Escape, which plays old time radio material. These skills are available in all of the Amazon English marketplaces. So for memory, that is Australia, New Zealand, Canada, The United States, Great Britain and India. And the way to do it is just say to your soup drinker, enable Mushroom FM or enable Mushroom Escape. Now, what we found is that the linguistic tolerance of some of these stores differs.
So in some stores you may need to say enable Mushroom FM skill or enable Mushroom Escape skill. When you do that, you will then, when you say open Mushroom FM or open Mushroom Escape or play Mushroom FM, or play Mushroom Escape, be playing directly from our skill. This is particularly significant in the United Kingdom where TuneIn is no longer allowed to play overseas stations. So this makes listening to Mushroom FM and Mushroom Escape much easier once again, in the United Kingdom.
We also have a Google action that does the same thing for both streams Mushroom FM and Mushroom Escape for those people who use the Google Assistant. The one downside of this is that these Google actions do take a long time for the stream to get going. That is just a characteristic of the actions. It doesn’t seem to be something that we can control, but to get it going, all you have to do is say, Hey Google ask Mushroom Escape to play or ask Mushroom FM to play, and it will do it. So we hope that you’ll give Mushroom FM a fresh listen and Mushroom Escape for that matter, the skills and the actions are now live in the stores. And we’ve had some great feedback on that.
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Jonathan Mosen: I hope if you were celebrating that you had a wonderful Christmas, we had a great one. We headed down to Invercargill, which is way down the bottom of the South Island and my son, David, and his now wife, but then fiance, Joanna are there. They’ve bought a house there. And my youngest daughter, Nicola is there as well. She’s just graduated with her diploma in fashion design, and she’s flatting with them as well, which is hilarious really because my older two were always BFFs. They were always good buddies, but the younger two David and Nicola when they were kids, they kind of fought like cats and dogs, but now they are just BFFs as well. So that’s a beautiful finale or something like that, long may it continue. So we headed down there to Invercargill. It was great. And we did a bit of Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve.
And since my youngest son and youngest daughter are down there, I thought, why don’t we treat them to an Xbox? They’re both pretty big gamers. And I thought that’s a nice Christmas present for them both. So I went with David to get the Xbox and Bonnie was there too, because I thought, we’d better make sure we get the right thing. I don’t claim to be an expert in the gaming arena at all. So we went into one of those department stores that sells all of these things and we got the Xbox he wanted and I paid for it and I had his name on the receipt, which they then emailed to him. And obviously David and Joanna have got some sort of shared email account or maybe Joanna was using David’s computer or something like that because we were just looking around at other things in the store.
And suddenly we get this phone call, David gets this phone call from Joanna. And she said, did you just buy an Xbox? I think David thought she was calling him out for buying the Xbox when they’ve got a wedding to plan and everything like that. So he hastily said, dad did, dad did, dad bought Xbox? And Joanna said, it’s just that I bought you one for Christmas. So we returned that Xbox. We were just so glad that it worked out that way because it would’ve been a bit of a downer having two Xboxes under the Christmas tree. So we made another contribution. Instead, we bought them a sound bar with a great big whopping sub and the whole thing. And that’s a Harman Kardon one and that puts out a really good sound. It just blows me away, the quality of the sounds tracks on so many of these games these days.
So they got the Xbox, they got the sound bar that all worked well. Also I bought Bonnie an iPhone 13 Pro Max, and this is the second time in our relationship that she has had a newer phone than me. I skipped the iPhone 5. So when Bonnie and I got together, she was running an iPhone 5 and I was still running the iPhone 4S, but since I have the iPhone 12, I didn’t really see any particular merit in upgrading to the 13. Bonnie has been working with my old iPhone 11. So we’ve had a bit of a cycle going for a while where she gets the previous year’s phone. But this year she is running the shiny new iPhone 13. So that’s exciting for her. And Nicola, my youngest has been clamoring for a new phone for a while. So I thought, oh, what the heck? I’ll buy her a 128 giggle bite iPhone 13 Pro because she may have to do some photography for her fashion related things.
So I thought, we’ll get the pro. She doesn’t need the Max. And that will be fine. And 128 gigabytes should be adequate. So we had a good Christmas day except that when Nicola turned on that iPhone 13 Pro 128 gig, which she was very excited to get. It turned out that she had more data than the iPhone could hold because she’s been using an iPhone, Gosh, what has she been using? I think the iPhone 8 and that’s a 256 gigabyte phone. And I had no idea that she had that much data on. Now to be fair, we could probably have cleaned this up with the use of iCloud photo library, which she hadn’t been using.
And in a way, the fact that I got her a phone that didn’t have the capacity she needed was a bit of a blessing, because it meant that she had to confront the fact that she had not enabled iCloud photo library, which meant that if there had ever been some sort of disaster and her phone had stopped working and the photos were irretrievable, she would have lost a lot of precious memories, but I wanted her to have the iPhone she really wanted, and I made it clear it was going to have to last a long time.
So I thought, no problem. We will swap out the iPhone 128 gigabyte for an iPhone 256. Now the only place that I could get the iPhone she wanted in little old Invercargill was at the Spark Store. Spark for those not in New Zealand is one of our carriers. They used to be called Telecom. Now they are called Spark. And fortunately I have a Spark account because this is not one of those places where you can just go in and buy a phone over-the-counter, hand over your credit card and be done with it. What they do is you have to have a spark account and you put it on your bill and you can pay it off in interest free installments over a couple of years or on your first bill that you get next, you can just pay the whole thing, which is what I prefer to do.
If I can pay for something in the here and now I’d rather just get it done because who knows what the future holds. Anyway, I went through all this process of giving my Spark account number and taking the time to get this done. You will recall if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, that when we bought the Sonos playbar, we found that the Sony Bravia TV that we had purchased had some serious accessibility issues relating to their screen reader and the eARC feature working together. And even though we were well past the 14 day write of return period that the store had, they were willing to swap out the TV for the Samsung that we now have. That sort of thing earns your loyalty. Doesn’t it?When somebody goes the extra mile to be reasonable and look after you, you think about that and you think if I possibly can, I will make my future purchases with them.
And so it has been, I’ve actually sent quite a bit of business their way because of the way they treated us so well during that situation. Well, the opposite can be true. And this is an example of a situation like this. On Christmas evening, when we were back at the hotel, I looked up the returns policy and the only returns policy I could find online from Spark was the returns policy that governs online purchases. And it was extraordinarily strict. It said that if you had opened the box, then essentially they would not replace or refund your purchase. And I thought man, that is really not very good in this day and age, but I thought, well perhaps purchases from these stores might be different. So I waited with some bated breath and trepidation until boxing day morning. And as soon as the Spark call center opened, I gave them a call thinking, oh boy, am I going to have a battle on my hands?
And I explained to the call center what the situation was that I’d bought an iPhone that didn’t have enough capacity. It was a Christmas gift for my daughter. So I couldn’t check in with her in advance. I wanted to surprise her. Could I please swap out that iPhone, which has been opened, I made that clear for the higher capacity model. And they said, absolutely no problem. Just give the store a call. They will take care of it. You can go into any Spark store and they will look after you. Now she said this after putting me on hold for a while and obviously checking with somebody or looking something up. So I ended that call with a high degree of confidence that everything was going to be groovy. And I side with relief. And I said, thank you so much. You’ve made me happy. You’ve made my daughter happy. I really appreciate the great service.
So then I called the store because something in the back of my mind said, surely, it’s not going to be this easy. I called the store before going in. And I said, I’ve spoken to the call center. Unfortunately, we bought the wrong capacity phone. The call center says I can come in to exchange it for the higher capacity phone and I’ll do that shortly. And the people at the store were completely different. And they said, no, you can’t do that. If it’s been opened, we can’t take it back. And I said, hang on. If I’d have bought this from Apple or any number of other stores, I can return that within 14 or maybe 30 days, depending on the company. And as long as the items are in good shape, I can get a refund or an exchange.
And they said, well, that’s not how it works here. And I said, but the call center told me I could do this. And they said, well, we don’t know why that’s the case, but you can’t. They were absolutely immovable. But I kept my cool and tried to be reasonable and reason with them, And eventually they said, look, we’ll talk to the manager and the manager will do some asking around and we’ll call you back. To be honest, I didn’t have a high degree of confidence that I would get a call back. I called the call center back and I said, the call center’s telling me one thing and your local store is telling me another thing, what’s true? And they put me on hold again. And they said, the store is correct. You can’t take this product back. And I said to them, well, somebody previously told me the opposite.
And they said, well, we don’t know why. So again, I did my advocacy and I said, listen, this is just completely unreasonable. Why is your policy so strict when so many other companies just want to make it right for the customer? And I did make the point that I have been a customer with Spark on and off for a long time. And I’m on at the moment. Well, I was on at the moment, we have quite a few mobiles and other things with Spark and I made the point that this is really giving me a sour taste to do with the company. Is it really worth holding out on me like this when I have other choices? So they said they would also contact me. While I was on that call with the call center, I got the beep of the call waiting. And so I ended that call. I checked my voicemail. It was the store actually calling back and I called them back and they said, was the iPhone switched on? And I said, yeah, it was switched on because it wasn’t until the point that we switched it on.
And my daughter started to do the transfer that she realized she had more data on the old phone than the new phone could accommodate. And they said, oh, that’s a shame. Because if it hadn’t been switched on, we would’ve been prepared to refund it. So we had moved from, we would never refund it if the box has been opened to, oh, we could have refunded it if the phone hadn’t been switched on. And again, I said, this is a standard that other retail outlets are not applying. And they said, yeah, but you see when you switch it on, it activates with Apple.
I said, it makes no difference. Apple doesn’t even apply that standard to itself. Other stores don’t apply that standard. This is just completely unreasonable. And by this stage, the whole family is not happy, not happy. And we just want to move our business. And we actually went to the Vodafone store to move all our business over to Vodafone, but on boxing day in Invercargill, the Vodafone store was closed, but we had really had it. Obviously, we would’ve had to live with that phone. We would’ve paid the bill and all those good things, but why should we support a company that is not supporting us with a pretty reasonable scenario at Christmas time? Well, while we were considering doing all those things, I did get a call finally after about three hours of back and forth from the store. And they said, okay, we’ll take it back and we’ll swap it out for a 256 iPhone.
And I thanked them and I said, that’s great. And I went in there before they changed their mind and we got the 256 gig iPhone and now Nicola is happy. But you see, as part of that research, I did look up the returns policy from Vodafone, which is a competitor of Sparks and right at the top of their return policy, it said this, if you’re not happy, we’re not happy. And it went through the process, which is much more reasonable by which you can get a refund or a replacement. And I actually did point this out to Spark that they would do well to contrast the way that they are treating their customers with the way that their competitors are. So even though I got the exchange, ultimately I wouldn’t have got the exchange.
If I hadn’t been a polite, but strenuous advocate, they just wanted me to go away. They just hoped that they would say no enough that I’d finally give up and I wasn’t prepared to do that. And I think that they could tell that I wasn’t prepared to do that. But if Spark are willing to treat their customers so contemptuously, then they don’t deserve my business and they no longer have it. So in early January, I switched all of our business, including broadband to Vodafone. Certainly here in New Zealand, there are trade offs. There are things that certain carriers have that other carriers don’t have. So in my case, one of the things I had to give up in doing this was the cellular Apple watch functionality because Spark has eSIM and at the moment Vodafone does not. But thinking about it, I really don’t use the Apple watch on its own very much at all.
I almost always have my iPhone with me. So that’s not a big sacrifice. Vodafone has wifi calling and at the moment Spark does not. And that’s a very useful feature at times. And most important of all, Vodafone has a lot more 5G. And that is pretty nice, especially now that I have a laptop with that capability. And sometimes if I’m away and I’m doing maintenance on Mushroom FM things and I’m downloading programming and uploading it somewhere else, the 5G is a real time saver. So it’s been a good move. There have been some accessibility challenges with some of the switch to Vodafone and I’ve put together a summary of those, which I’m going to send to the Chief Executive of Vodafone New Zealand. So I won’t comment on those yet, because I’m hoping that I’ll be able to engage in some quality dialogue to get those resolved, not just for me, but other blind people who use Vodafone.
But I tell you all of this because there’s a parable here that if you are in customer service, I hope you might take to heart. And that is sometimes it’s just best to make it right for the customer because eventually Spark are going to lose on this deal. Let’s not forget that I was wanting to pay them more money for a different product. I wanted to go to the more expensive version of the product that I purchased, that’s the first thing. The second thing is that they will now not be getting the business from my family that they were getting. And so eventually they are going to lose on this deal and it would take something pretty extraordinary for me to use Spark again, after the way that they gave us the runaround. So we are pretty pleased with the performance of the Vodafone network. Spark has lost our business and it could have been avoided if they had just showed a little bit of humanity. Mosen At Large Podcast.
Speaker 2: Hey Jonathan, and all your listeners. This is Madeline. I just wanted to take the time to tell all of you guys what I got for Christmas this year. I got a world full of tech for Christmas. I’m very excited to tell you, the first thing I got was a Google Nest Audio Smart speaker, just exciting device to use, to play a lot of different songs on my Apple music account. I helped set that feature up. The second thing I got new Bose headphones that I bought with my Christmas money from grandma and grandpa. I’m so excited to start using those headphones. The exciting part about them is that they have the Soup Drinker built in. I also got a new water bottle I heard about from David Woodbridge in Australia called Hidrate Spark 3. It works with an app and I’ve the app installed on my iPad.
I have been using it for a few days and I’m loving it. Also I got a wrist strap to attach to my iPhone 11, which I’m talking to you on. I’m excited that I got that for Christmas. It keeps the phone from falling and you can’t pick it up. I also got an iPhone version of the Apple pencil. The last thing I got is a Bond Touch Waterproof Vibrating Bracelet, a bracelet from one of my aunt. My aunt and I are going to start using the bracelet to connect to each other. You can use Morse code to communicate to your other person. Thank you. And I am wishing you a Happy New Year in 2022.
Jonathan Mosen: Well you too Madeline. You’ll be probably counting the days until the next Christmas at this rate. That sounds like a phenomenal Christmas with all of that technology. Just be careful with those Bose headphones though, because you don’t want to crank them up so much. Crank it up. No, no, you don’t want to do that. Crank it up. That you do something to your hearing because that’s precious, but what a wonderful set of gifts that you got and it sounds like you’re really enjoying them.
Speaker 3: Hello? This is Andy Rebcher. I’m here to tell you about one of my favorite Christmas gifts. I think somewhere on this podcast, I mentioned that my mother gave my father a tape recorder that my brother and I commandeered. And so I won’t count that because it wasn’t really officially mine, but this is not when I was a little kid now, I was maybe 14, probably 15 years old. I had just started learning to play guitar about a year and a half earlier. And I was dying to have a microphone that I could plug into my little Vibro Champ amp along with my guitar, so I could sing along with it. And on Christmas morning, I woke up and I went out to the living room and my father said, you’re better. Let me show you this before you walk into it, because it was not wrapped. It was standing there on a glorious, real genuine mic stand.
That was the right height for me to just walk up and sing into it. And I couldn’t wait to plug it into my amp and see what would happen. And of course it sounded kind of fuzzy because the amp was maybe 20 Watts and had a guitar playing through it too. And we had a band, we called it the Three Blind Mice in the school for the blind and there was a drummer and a piano player. And then me with my little amp cranked right up to as high as I could go playing guitar and singing through this itty bitty amp. And it probably sounded something like this. [Singing].
Jonathan Mosen: Good on you Andy great story. And I’m sure that band name The Three Blind Mice has been used more than once. We actually had a band at high school that a bunch of blind people that I was a part of formed and we called our band the Venetian blinds.
This email comes from Eden. She says, “Hi, Jonathan, I’m enjoying your show every week. I’ve been listening to your journey in getting your Lenovo. Recently, every computer I have is getting old.” Well, aren’t we all Eden, aren’t we all? “My Toshiba Windows 10 laptop,” she says is almost seven and pretty dead. “The state gave me a Vio SX 14 from 2019.” What a nice state. “And while it sort of works, it has a loose chord and it keeps wrecking chords. I kind of like it, but I’m also tempted by your ThinkPad. I ideally want 32 or 64 gigs of RAM in something. I need it to have Windows 10, but good for light music production. I would need to load instruments, but I don’t want to run massively big multi-track songs. I would also like to keep the computer fairly light. Everyone loves their ThinkPad, but I’m concerned with the small amount of ports and no SD port and no ethernet cable. I will likely work remotely, but many companies require you to have a wired connection. I want a laptop just in case I do need to go out. I don’t want any Dell’s because they never seem to last very long and have audio driver issues.”
Well, let me just comment on your laptop comments before moving on to the next thing, Eden. The Lenovo is pretty generous by today’s laptop standards with ports, because you’ve got two USBA ports and two USBC, plus HDMI. That is pretty good. A lot of computers these days are skipping USBA entirely. And I understand the logic behind that. But, the point is there are a lot of legacy USBA peripherals that many of us are still using. And so when you need to carry around dongles just to plug these things in, those dongles can be lost. It really is an inconvenience. So, the Lenovo port set is pretty generous. It is quite rare to find an ethernet port on laptops these days. You can buy a dongle that will plug into one of the USB ports that will give you ethernet. So, that is one dongle you might want to carry around. But in most cases, I don’t think you’ll need to.
Wifi is getting extremely good these days, particularly if you are going somewhere that’s got wifi 6 or even wifi 6E. There’s excellent throughput there. And I do a bit of travel myself. And what I find is that when you go to a business, they’re happy to type the wifi key in for you, or they may have guest access that they will let you connect to. So, lack of ethernet I don’t think is a serious problem, but you can get that dongle if you need to. So, I think you’d be very happy with the ThinkPad, particularly given the keyboard and the lightness of it, and the fact that you can get 32 gigs at least. I’m not sure if you can go up to 64 on those or not.
She continues, “As for blindness tech, right now I’m grateful for my Braille Sense six. With the new iOS update Braille with an uppercase B from any device has become unbearable for me.” And I think I can hear the cries of, “Here, here,” all around the world. And I agree with you, Eden. This started with iOS 15.2. iOS 15.3 is out now. And as far as I can tell, it’s as bad as it ever was. iOS 15.4 Beta One is also out now. That is very recent, and I haven’t been able to verify at this date. I can’t say with any certainty, whether the issues are fixed in iOS 15.4 Beta one. I hope I’ll have a better idea of that in the next episode. If you are testing with 15.4, then please let me know what you’re experiencing, if you’ve been having trouble with Braille before.
Eden describes the problem very well. So I’ll just continue to read her email. She says, “At least three times a day, the Braille display gets stuck and you can restart voiceover, but Braille won’t come up. You have to restart the phone. I also find writing with Braille in the mail app makes me look illiterate. So, I’m glad I have this to write to you on because I won’t write more than a few sentences right now using my phone.” Yeah. And the thing is, no matter how much we complain about it, these things keep happening with iOS and Braille. And I guess I’ve just come to the conclusion that I’m changing my mind about the need for blindness note takers. Braille on Android isn’t there yet. And Braille on iOS has a pretty good feature set, but the quality is just too unreliable. If you need Braille to communicate, perhaps you’re DeafBlind, perhaps you’re in business and you rely on these things to get your job done. You just can’t as a Braille user, do any of those things with an iPhone right now. The whole thing is just way too flaky.
So, while there are great apps like Ulysses doing the job on iOS. If voiceover and its Braille support is constantly letting people down, you can’t rely on that stuff. And I am not sure whether we are seeing multiple Braille issues or whether it’s one issue that manifests itself in different ways. But I’ve got an APH Mantis. And for me, when those lock ups occur, I can’t even quit voiceover and restart it. I have to reset the phone. And the only way I can do that is with the hard reset option because I’ve completely lost speech. My phone has entirely locked up, so I have to press the volume up, the volume down and then hold the power button for about 10 seconds, and the phone will reset. I’ve even had it over the last couple of days just spontaneously lock up possibly when I’ve switched to the iPhone in the Mantis for the first time. And I don’t realize that my phone has locked up until I grab it and try and make a call or check notifications or something, and find that the phone has been locked up for some time. And I have to do that reset thing. And then I get a whole flurry of notifications. And as somebody who needs to be contactable, that really is a huge concern.
Now, I am told that if you turn your alerts off, this may improve the issues somewhat. I’ve tried this and I am still getting some lockups. There are also those focus issues when you’re trying to compose an email that Eden refers to. It doesn’t make that go away. And the thing is, that’s only a temporary workaround rather than a fix. Because, if like me, you often use your iPhone as a Braille only device, so you mute your speech, if you turn those alerts off, it means that you can’t get at the text of notifications as they’re coming in, which will flash up on your Braille display when those alerts are on. Eden also says, “I also love my Braille Sense 6, because first letter navigation is your friend. I do wish they had movement commands in the third party apps though. Anyhow, take care of yourself,” says Eden. “Wishing you and the rest of your family a happy start to your new year.” Thank you so much, Eden. And the same to you.
Tristan Claire is writing in on the Apple issue and she is saying that she’s having issues with Braille screen input, which knocking on the wood I actually have not had. So Tristan writes, “Hi, Jonathan. I too have been experiencing the bug where my phone locks up after I send a message using Braille screen input. One day it happened 10 times in a row. I got so sick of soft resetting my phone that I returned it to factory settings in the hope that it was a setting that was the problem. Alas, the time spent reconfiguring my phone back to how I like it was wasted because the bug still persisted. I do seem to have hit on a workaround that has significantly reduced the frequency of these phone freezes. I’m passing it on in the hope that it will help your listeners.”
“If you want to stop your phone from freezing every time you send a message using BSI, do the following; take a new line when you finish your message. Do it in BSI before you turn the rotor to get back to the regular keyboard. Then send your message as usual. For some reason, having the extra line space at the end of the message seems to ensure that the phone won’t get stuck in the message box, which is how it looks visually when my phone freezes on a message. I haven’t done proper accessibility tests to verify this, but I’m pretty sure if I forget to take a new line at the end of this message, I’ll have to do the whole volume up, volume down, then hold in the power button maneuver that I’ve become really skilled at lately. Hope that helps. Really looking forward to having your podcast back in my ears again.” Thank you, Tristan. I’m so sorry to hear that you’re having that Braille screen input problem. I really don’t want that added to my list of woes, because so far I have not seen that one. If you have seen that one, of course, get in touch and let us know.
Let’s go to the UK. Iain Lackey says, “Hello, Jonathan. I thought that as you were going to be talking about Braille and Apple, I would throw in my observations. On updating to iOS 15.2, I found that on occasion, I was getting lockups, which not only caused the display to freeze, but also necessitated a hard reset of my iPhone. I was able to get around this by turning off Braille announcements in voiceover. Now that I have updated to the latest OS, I have encountered another problem. When panning right or left within an element, the Braille on the display does not change until a new element is entered. However, when speech is switched on and off, the expected value appears on the Braille display. It seems that when this happens, the panning actually has happened. But, the signal to change the Braille on the display is not being sent until speech is toggled. I have seen this behavior on both focus and Brailliant displays. This surely needs to be fixed soon as it makes continuous reading a real pain.”
Michael Forzano writes, “Hi, Jonathan. I’ve been experiencing the lockup issue you mentioned with my Focus 40 blue display. But aside from that, Braille, specifically typing Braille from a display has been broken for me for years. I’m a fast typist and like many, I’m sure, prefer to Braille in grade two or now UEB. For several major versions of iOS now, the translation engine has just been unable to keep up. If I type out a sentence, it takes literally over a minute for the words to be entered on the display. And during that time, my phone is completely locked up. Anyway, thanks for bringing up this issue. Hopefully this gives it some much needed attention and motivates folks to contact Apple accessibility. Maybe if enough of us reach out, they will finally take it seriously.”
Mike, I wish I believed that were true. There seems to be some sort of weird disconnect that I don’t fully comprehend between when you email Apple accessibility and whether something actually gets through to a developer who can fix what’s broken. We’ve had people make this point on the podcast before. You can file bug reports with Apple until you’re blue in the face. It’s really time consuming. People have, in good faith, because they fundamentally appreciate what Apple has done, spent a lot of time filing bugs and nothing happens. And I get, as a former product manager, that you have to prioritize bugs. All software has bugs, but when you leave something as fundamental as this broken, as you go in from a 15.2 to a 15.3 release, and you’ve got DeafBlind people in particular for whom there’s no other option, I just have to believe that there’s some sort of systemic issue going on here. Because, I believe that developers at Apple really do care about the difference that they make in people’s lives. So something is broken. There’s got to be some systemic failure somewhere in process, but anyway, that’s not our problem. Our problem is that it needs to be fixed.
Regarding your point about input. This is one of the reasons why I bought the APH Mantis actually, because I can now type in with a QWERTY keyboard. And that way I have contracted UEB Braille on my Braille display, but I’m just using a regular Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard. And I really find that that has made a big difference. So I think that sales of Mantis actually benefit from those Braille anomalies. And you are rights, they have been on for a long time now.
Tim: It’s Tim from the Netherlands with the first episode of Tim’s New Hearing Aids. First, why do I get new hearing aids? Because I have the Oticon open hearing aids, which are a bit over four years old now. And I had Widex Clear 440 hearing aids from 2011. And recently my left Oticon hearing aid needed to be sent for repair. So I successfully used the spare Widex hearing aids for a couple of days until the right Widex broke in two. And that’s just not acceptable. Suppose that now one of the hearing aids breaks down, especially if that happens during, say a business trip, with only one or no hearing aids for one or two weeks. And that’s not a good way to run my business, which depends a lot on traveling and talking to people. So I really need spares relatively urgently.
The first decision that needs to be made is which form factor I’m going to get. And that’s going to be, again, the behind the ear model, like my Oticon and Widex hearing aids. So that’s the model with an ear mold in the ear and a tube running between the relatively large hearing aid and the ear mold. The modern version of hearing aids is the receiver in channel model, which has a little speaker in the ear canal and little wires running between the relatively small aid and the speaker. It could be I’m going to try such a model again. But when I tried it four years ago, it only had disadvantages for me because there was a lot more trouble with feedback. The hearing aid is smaller, but it also means it’s a lot more fragile, and it just eats batteries. I found the connection to the phone very much worse than with the behind the ear models.
Apparently some people prefer the sound from a receiver in channel hearing aid because the speaker is in their ear and the sound doesn’t go from a speaker behind their ear through a tube and an ear mold. So it’s more directly fed into the ear. And the receiver internal models also have advantages for people who are well served with what they call an open fit. And an open fit, that means that the ear canal is left partially open so that some sounds in the frequency ranges in which your hearing is impaired can go through the hearing aid. But other sounds in frequency ranges in which your hearing is not impaired go directly into the ear canal. But, because my hearing loss is rather profound, I am better served with a closed fit, which means you close off the entire ear canal. So, all sounds go through the hearing aids.
But, another reason why people prefer, or even gently insist that you should choose receiver in channel hearing aids is because they’re smaller. They are less visible. And I find that a bit concerning because the thinking behind that is that apparently you should want to hide the fact that you are wearing hearing aids. And although I’m not proud of a disability, well, that’s a different discussion. I’m not ashamed of it either. And in my case, people already see I’m almost completely blind. So if I’m better served with a larger hearing aid, then why bother trying to hide the use of a hearing aid to the rest of the world, at the cost of the hearing aids functionality? I’m not saying you should put big antennas on people’s heads, but the fact that so much emphasis is placed on hiding a necessary accommodation, even when hiding that accommodation actually decreases its efficacy, I think it’s a bad thing. And, it’s another symptom of society’s incorrect attitudes around disabilities.
That’s it for today. In the next episode of the Tim’s New Hearing Aid series, I will talk about rechargeable versus disposable hearing aid battery options. And I will share my experiences with the first hearing aid that I’m currently testing, which are from the brand Signia. And of course I will place special emphasis on topics which are important to visually impaired hearing aid users. So, how does the hearing aid work together with an iPhone running voiceover and how does the hearing aid perform in terms of sound localization and using it while on the move.
Jonathan Mosen: Oh, I thought you were going to say on the moon for a while, Tim, and I thought that would be exciting if you used your hearing aid on the moon. Thank you. I’m looking forward to some more in this series. I haven’t been through the exercise since 2019, and I did document some of my findings. You can still get to that blog post at mosen.org/nowhearthis2019, all one word. And I did try a receiver in the canal aid, and that was the Widex one at the time. And I must say sound, particularly from their TV adapter product was amazing. It really did sound like I was wearing good quality earbuds within the constraints of my hearing impairment. As I documented in that 2019 post, the software for the Widex aid was terribly inaccessible. And one of the problems that I’ve had over the years is that it’s actually quite hard to get past the local regional reps for these hearing aid companies and have some dialogue with the people who develop them.
I didn’t stick with the Widex aids, partly because of the accessibility problems of their app. They were nowhere near as reliable at that time, and three years was a long time in hearing aid technology with the iPhone. There was a lot of breakup, it was really bad. And the Oticon’s were just so much better at the time. And the other area where we got stuck with the Widex was that I really do make extensive use of this direct audio input technology that some hearing aids have and some hearing aids do not. And I’m connected for example, to my mixer, with a cable going directly into my hearing aids at the moment. And the Widex aids, which were receiver in the canal and therefore smaller, did not have that option. And I think the fact that they are receiver in the canal is part of the reason for that. There’s less space to pack technology into them.
So for a raft of reasons, the Oticon open S one was just a very good fit for me, and they are traditional behind the ear aids. And I do have the direct audio input. And they’re pretty robust in terms of compatibility with the iPhone. In fact, I have seen examples where there’s been some sort of weird breakage with iOS where the Oticon aids just kept on soldiering on without any problem at all, and many other hearing aid manufacturers experienced problems. So I’m not sure when I will get the opportunity to do a renewal of my hearing aid technology, but it’s a big life decision, isn’t it? So, I’d be interested to see how you get on and what you eventually choose. Because, you’ve got the Oticon’s that’s one generation before my current ones. So we’ll see, I guess, whether you stick with Oticon or go to another manufacturer and what your reasoning is.
Speaker 4: What’s on your mind? Send an email with a recording of your voice, or just write it down. Jonathan@mushroomfm.com. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N @mushroomfm.com. Or, phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864 60 Mosen. That’s 864 6066736.
Jonathan Mosen: The latest laptops from many of the big players, bold plays made by companies that want to be dominant tech juggernauts in the future, useful niche devices, and the downright truly bizarre that we’ll probably never hear of again. The annual Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas is kind of the Alice’s restaurant of technology really. You can get anything you want. Mike May and Gena Harper attended CES. So that’s geek out and talk about some of the products that caught their attention. Welcome to you both. It’s great to have you on the podcast.
Mike May: Oh, it’s great to be on Jonathan, thanks.
Jonathan Mosen: So Mike, you’ve been to CES before. I know it’s a regular pilgrimage for you. This show was affected by the pandemic, with many of the big players pulling out at the last minute really. I suppose on the one hand that was a disappointment. But, on the other, the significantly lower attendance might have made it what, a bit easier to navigate possibly?
Mike May: Oh, there was lots of benefits. I saw an article yesterday that said they estimated 40,000 attendees, which is about a quarter of what would normally be there. And it also mentioned something like little people, big noise. And so for a lot of smaller to medium companies, you had a chance to get more visibility. You got the limelight because all the big boys weren’t there.
Jonathan Mosen: A good chance for them to shine. Was it your first CES, Gena?
Gena Harper: Yes, it was my first CES. So I’m usually working my day job. And I went this year so I could write an article for Access World for AFB, the American Foundation For The Blind. So I went as a reporter on their behalf.
Jonathan Mosen: And what did you think?
Gena Harper: I thought it was amazing. And I did quiz Mike a lot and how to approach it, what kind of notes did I want to take? How was it set up? So he gave me tremendous guidance, just so I wouldn’t waste a lot of time trying to figure out how I want to approach the whole event. And it was very helpful the ideas he gave me. And I really liked it. It was fun and bizarre and all the things you said in your intro.
Jonathan Mosen: One Of the things I know both of you didn’t spend too much time looking at was the laptops that were announced by the big manufacturers. But there were a couple of things that caught my attention from the media coverage here that I just wanted to reference. One is that one of the most popular consumer laptops on the market, the Dell XPS 13, has come out with a radical new design that I don’t think is particularly blind friendly, because they’ve gone the old Mac route. It’s interesting that Apple’s abandoned the strategy, but the Dell XPS 13s new model has got this kind of touch bar like thing at the top of the keyboard that replaces the function keys. And of course, many of us use function keys on apps like Microsoft office, but also for our screen readers. So, that’s not going to go down well. And it’s a shame to see the XPS 13 go down that route.
Also, there’s a lot of new offerings from HP. They’ve redesigned their Dragonfly Elite product, which is their premium business laptop. And Lenovo has come out with the 10th generation of the ThinkPad, and I only bought the ninth generation the previous month. So what can you do? What can you do? So, there were some very interesting laptop announcements. Faster, sometimes thinner, and they’re just inexorably moving on. But let’s talk about some of the other devices that you both saw. And we’ve got a list of categories to go through. Mike hearing devices that are over the counter type devices. This is something that interests you because you have done reviews on Mosen At Large, in the past of some devices that you liked, and you found yourself in the market unexpectedly for something new, right?
Mike May: Yeah, I did. First I want to thank Good Maps for sending me to CES. I have been going since 1984, most years, and also to the Consumer Technology Association Foundation, that sends an accessibility group to CES. It happens that a couple weeks ago, I left my favorite Audio-Technica MX50 headphones on the airplane. And so I was looking for replacement that included collapsible headphones, high quality, over the ear, a microphone in the cord, which means you get a lot better audio if you’re using Siri or you’re talking to somebody on the phone, versus the microphones that are built into the earpieces. And amazingly Audio-Technica, Sennheiser and others have gone away from those in-chord headphones. It was the gaming headphones that tended to have that kind of thing, or they would have a boom mic, but then you sacrificed audio quality. They would go from maybe 20 Hertz to 20K Hertz, versus let’s say 40,000 or more.
Jonathan Mosen: So what did you end up with?
Mike May: I ordered both an Audio-Technica and Sennheiser, and I’m not happy with them. I’m sending them back, because it’s hard to find out if they have a microphone in the chord or not. I did find a headphone called View one V-I-E-W O-N-E. And it had everything except the good frequency response. So I don’t think I’m going to be buying that one. But, I’m still on a quest and will see what else I find for a high quality music listening on the airplane and good quality transmission.
Jonathan Mosen: It can sometimes be hard being a discerning consumer, can’t it? And people say, “Why can’t you just be happy with what’s out there.” But you know what you like, and there’s no harm in striving to find it.
Mike May: And you mentioned the touch on the laptops. I was seeing that on some different products. On this Sennheiser, for example, Sennheiser Momentum. Everything is touch on the left earpiece. And I found myself practically breathing on the thing and skipping songs or muting the thing. It’s really hard in a mobile environment to not have buttons that have some real positives feel an action to them.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah, it is a trend unfortunately. Gena, are you interested in this area, the whole headphones thing?
Gena Harper: I’m very interested, but I generally get my information from Mike. I use mostly AirPods and I use the AfterShokz headset and I have some Sennheiser’s. But, I’m not as sophisticated as Mike in the headphone area.
Jonathan Mosen: There are new AfterShokz aren’t there?
Mike May: There are. I was thrilled to see those come out the Openrun, and I’ll be getting a pair to test. But, I just used them briefly at the show, and that’s always a tough place because it’s loud. But, I have the Opencomm, which has the extended mic, which I think helps a lot with Siri and voice communication. The Openrun does not have that. They’re a little bit thinner. They have the action button on the left side instead of the right, for some reason. They’re a little bit thinner. They’re really designed for jogging and for running, as you could guess from the name and not so much from comm, which would be communication. They have something they call turbo pitch, which is supposed to mean better base. I don’t know that I would get AfterShokz for high quality music listening. They’re certainly decent enough for exercising with and listening to music. But the jury’s still out I think on that Openrun Pro. The Openrun, to confuse things even further is what used to be called Aeropex, a previous model.
Jonathan Mosen: For those who are not familiar with AfterShokz, the big advantage of these, which are bone conducting is that it obviously keeps your ears free, which is good if you’re navigating in traffic. It’s good companion technology for your GPS.
Gena Harper: I wanted to add that my experience with AfterShokz is, for me, the Opencomm, open communication model, drastically increased my ability to hear the speaker. And they fit better on my head or the bone part that’s kind of on your cheek. And the microphone is a huge benefit. To me, they were just greatly improved over any other AfterShokz that I’ve used before.
Mike May: Yeah, there were some knockoff models too. I’ve seen them at CES before. And they’re of course, much cheaper. We saw, I think two models at CES for 59, $69, versus, 159 for the AfterShokz models.
Jonathan Mosen: One of the things that I noticed when I played with AfterShokz, and it was some time ago because with my hearing impairment, they’re not really viable, but the original AfterShokz were very uncomfortable. Has that improved any?
Mike May: Yeah. I think that the thin flexible band on the new ones you hardly notice. The old ones would tend to, after a lot of flexing, they would break. So these are much better and you can wod them up in a pocket a lot easier.
Jonathan Mosen: Anything else in the headphones, hearable category before we move on?
Mike May: Well, I think the over the counter topic is really important because the way that that’s evolving in the US approval from FDA and others is that there’s still medical devices, which means that they have to be set up and tweaked by audiologists. And that means the price can be $5,000 a piece. So as soon as they’re able to be over the counter, you’re going to get these for more in the $500 range. And we saw some from Jabber like that, right? Gena.
Gena Harper: Yes. And I do have a few others. There was one called active motion, smart communication. They have two models and it clips over your ear and I didn’t really understand all the differences, but it had all the features of, kind of bone conducting, but I don’t believe that was it.
One of the models of those has a microphone and there’s another one I have, the name is really complicated. So you just, got to give me a second.
Mike May: Yeah. I’ll mention while she’s looking for that, that the Jabra have an enhanced pro, which is their medical grade. And as soon as these laws change, then you’re going to see that available over the counter.
They say that… I think on January 18th, the law is being reviews and reviewed. And so I think it’ll be probably more like the fourth quarter before you see the OTC models come out.
Jonathan Mosen: I’d be very interested to see whether apple dabbles in this space because they sort of have with a live listen feature, which is a feature available for made for iPhone hearing aid users now, but they’ve also made it available in air pods.
And they’ve done a few things where they’re using that to enhance conversation. So it’s almost they’re thinking about they’re on the verge of releasing some sort of product that would qualify as a hearing aid product.
Mike May: And they emphasize with these, that they are not for severe hearing loss. It’s for people who have some hearing issue and it’s more of an amplification, but in the case of the Jabra, there will be an interface that allows you to do a lot of equalization and adjustment. I’m sure in an app, to customize it to your particular hearing issues.
Jonathan Mosen: Did you have your, hit from product there? Gena?
Gena Harper: Yes, I do. So another one that I saw, I really liked and I thought it was interesting. It was called Mymanu and it is a hands-free, kind of everything free device. It’s 4G, it’s connected with T-mobile so you can do phone calling on it.
One of its major features is it’s very advanced, it translation. So they gave me some examples where, they would translate different languages. It also can do streaming, what it looks like, which wasn’t super appealing to me is you do wear earbuds, so your ears are plugged.
Where in the AfterShokz they’re not. And then it has this thing that kind of goes around your neck it’s kind of flat and it just sits on the front of your shoulder blades. And I think that has something to do with its ability to hear and translate. I’m not positive, but it was very unique. It seemed to have a lot of capabilities.
Jonathan Mosen: Wow.
Gena Harper: And I thought that was unique.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. If it’s got 4G in it, then it sounds like the thing that’s around your neck will not only be handling any translation, but also the cellular modem and things like that. So that’s a completely standalone device by the sounds of it.
Gena Harper: Yeah. Totally standalone.
Mike May: No phone involved it’s amazing, it’s all voice control. So anything you want to do, listen to music, call people, it’s all done through the voice control and it’s about $200.
Jonathan Mosen: Wow. It really… Does sound interesting.
Mike May: I think a model is called TITAN, Mymanu TITAN.
Jonathan Mosen: Wow. Awesome. Now, Gena, when we were talking about what we would cover on this show, you came up with quite a lot of COVID related devices. And it’s understandable that now that the pandemic is entering its third year, technologists have been focusing on the pandemic.
Gena Harper: Yeah. The favorite thing that I found, that I thought was really interesting is a device called Airxom and it’s spelled A-I-R-X-O-M. And it’s actually a mask and no air can come in, it’s own little sort of respirator.
And the features, were the part that I liked, I mean it was really ultimate, it’s your own air, it is doing kind of re… I don’t know the word, like refreshing the air and it has a 10 hour battery life.
The thing I didn’t like is that it looks like, if you were going to wear goggles, I mean, it’s pretty, not heavy duty as in weight, heavy duty, as in looking like it’s just sits on your face and I think it’s kind of scary looking, but I did think it was really do a great job.
I mean, I would even buy one if I could get over the scary looking part or it looked like I was kind of ready to rob a bank or something, but I thought it really had good technology. It seemed really solid and to be very thorough at protecting from COVID.
Jonathan Mosen: I suppose the question you always have with devices like this is, what’s the science behind it. And sometimes, things can be scientifically robust that you don’t expect a gadget like this, that I didn’t expect to be real.
That was, as this PhoneSoap thing. I don’t know if I ever, either of you used that, but I’ve got a PhoneSoap device and it uses ultraviolet lights to clean your phone and it actually, really works. And you sort of think, well, why am I enclosing my phone in this gadget? But the science is there, so how do you know, I guess, as a consumer that, a device that purports to protect you against COVID-19, actually does what it says it does.
Mike May: Half of this stuff you just have to, you would just have to hope because it is, there’s no feedback of any kind. I think one thing that was really dramatic is for CES, you had to be vaccinated and take a COVID test. So they handed out free tests and fortunately Aira jumped in and helped out because these are, a hundred percent inaccessible.
You’ve got to put six drops into a little teeny hole. So we did that, but it really made me go out on the floor, looking for COVID tests that would be accessible. And there was one company called Grapheal, G-R-A-P-H-E-A-L.com. And they had a little test card that had a chip in it, that connects to your phone, which of course connects to an app.
And it does COVID testing with the swab and so forth, but it also does some other stuff have you to do with wound testing, if you are dealing with that, not just COVID testing. So I’m curious as this new trend, moves towards faster, easier, cheaper, and more, will these be more accessible, these different kinds of tests.
Jonathan Mosen: It’s good to see the blindness consumer organizations uniting and saying, “Come on guys, we’ve got to get to grips with some sort of accessible way of doing these rapid antigen tests.” So that’s good but it doesn’t sound like there was anything that immediately jumped out at either of you that handled this right now.
Mike May: No, there was nothing, there and some of them, the companies would say, “Well, you can’t try it because it’s not FDA approved.” So we’ll see, but the nice thing was there were dozens of companies working on, everything from COVID testing to air purification.
There was one called Aeronest, fresh air ventilation, where you actually put a little fan, on your mask and it blows air through there and supposed to help out. There was another device that hangs around your neck and supposedly sends ions up and clears the virus around your face.
Jonathan Mosen: You’re going to look like a bit of a dork, if you’re wearing a mask and you’ve got this fan thing.
Mike May: [crosstalk [01:11:39] Yeah, exactly.
Gena Harper: I saw a Mila humidifier and I put it on my list of things, because it seemed super current kind of cutting edge, though they have a good history and a track record of being in business. It had the ability to have seven different filters that you choose when you buy it.
So if dogs and animal hair is your issue, you’d choose one filter. They were all HEPA filters. I personally care about environmental good things, and they are really working on trying to find other filters, because HEPA filters are not recyclable so I really admired that.
The other thing is you could pick it up it was a little small, kind of step stool and I wanted the ability to be able to move it room to room and I like that. I thought it was a good company and a good product.
Mike May: And it was a humidifier too. It was both.
Gena Harper: Right. Yeah. The other thing is you, Jonathan mentioned how do you know things are legit or scientifically proven? I had that very same thought about a number of things that I was pretty much shocked and they didn’t make my list but since you brought up the topic.
So my daughter has really bad scoliosis and there was a company touting, that they had a brace and it was done with a lot of elasticity and that you could use it if you were elderly and it would help with scoliosis and I’m definitely not a doctor.
I think that’s a bunch of hogwash and so I sort of just listened a little bit and moved on. And there was another one, where they had these a sleep shade and night shade you put on your eyes and they said it could help lessen retinitis pigmentosa, and it could help lessen other eye diseases.
And I believe they even used glaucoma as one of their examples. I did also think that was hogwash. So I definitely questioned some of the companies and the science behind their technology if they were legit.
Mike May: There’s one purporting to help with tinnitus called Sound Oasis.
Jonathan Mosen: What does it do?
Mike May: It seemed to me, that they called it brain distractions and so they send out, I guess masking sounds that would help offset the tinnitus.
Jonathan Mosen: My initial thought about that is, how does it differ from, some of the features that are built into mobile operating systems? Now, for example, in iOS 15, you’ve got a bunch of noises, you can turn on, when you’re wearing made for iPhone hearing aids that do exactly that, they provide background noise, that mask the tinnitus.
Mike May: Yeah. One of the things that I always look at, at least in the last 10 years at CES is how accessible the apps are, because we’ve had this model over the years where we had touch devices that you couldn’t access at all when we went from buttons. And then once we had apps, it was, oh boy, we can access all these things, but not if the apps aren’t accessible.
So for example, those Sennheiser headphones, I tested, they have a great app, just like Bose has an app for some of their headphones, but the Sennheiser app, a lot of the things are not at all accessible. So it’s a good news, bad news. I’d go up to a booth and I’d… When somebody would show me their product, I’d say, “Well let’s check out the app.”
In some cases, I turned on the voiceover much to their chagrin and found out, that it worked or didn’t work. And Gena could tell you more about this one product there was, there’s a lot of French companies they’re startups, and it’s a product called MyEli.
And I got this poor gal to turn on, her app. Her phone was in French. So it made a little challenging to say, “Hey, Siri” in French, but it got it turned on and it seemed like the buttons were not just saying button they were actually talking, but it was kind of a cool product.
Gena Harper: But MyEli, what, is it is actually, it’s a bracelet and it’s really used for safety purposes. You can touch a button and it alerts all the people you put as your special emergency contacts.
Then you can also send a message once, they will react to whatever your message is. Then say, you’ve recovered all as well. You can send them another text saying all as well. It does also stream music and has another set of features.
Jonathan Mosen: So you do all those things from the bracelet itself?
Gena Harper: Yep. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jonathan Mosen: Or how does that work?
Gena Harper: Yep. All from the bracelet and it was very attractive too. It was very jewelry very cute. It was very nice looking bracelet came in different colors and things, but yeah, it was main purpose was being able to alert others that you’re in distress.
Jonathan Mosen: What’s the user interface on the bracelet. How do you interact with it?
Mike May: Just one button.
Gena Harper: Oh yeah. You just touch it, right. It’s a one button, you just press it.
Jonathan Mosen: Okay. So it’s kind of a modern medical alert type thing where-
Gena Harper: Exactly.
Mike May: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: … running into trouble you hit the button.
Gena Harper: Right, that was exactly.
Mike May: Right. And it does interface with the app. So you obviously have to have your phone with you.
Gena Harper: About what Mike was saying, about the apps and being accessible is I had a personal commitment before I started viewing the different devices. I really was committed to myself to talk to each vendor about accessibility and sort of bring it to their attention and to their awareness.
And it was very depressing and shocking that most of them knew nothing about accessibility. And then the companies that said they did know about accessibility were clueless about voiceover. So then I questioned what can they possibly know about accessibility, if they don’t understand voiceover? So I found that, really sad and I also stopped asking because it was taking a lot of time, to just have that simple conversation with them.
Jonathan Mosen: When you have that conversation, what was the general tone of the response? Were people indifferent, interested, but ignorant, what kind of general reaction did you get?
Gena Harper: My general reaction would be interested, but ignorant in a couple of the vendors, the actual, the president or the person in charge of design was there. And so I would connect with them thinking that I was getting closer to the right person and they listened very patiently.
And a few of them, I did demonstrate voiceover and they were very intrigued. And then a number of companies said, this is really important to us and there was one company named Picoo and possibly Picoo, P-I-C-O-O. And they are from the Netherlands and they developed a game and you hold these things in your hands or kind of little, sort of the size of a small yogurt.
And it’s a game developed for children. And they do work in conjunction with an organization for visually impaired children in the Netherlands. So it really was genuinely seemed legit that they cared about accessibility and the devices, you play a game and each person holds one of these things in your hand.
And the thing you hold in your hand has a light on it. It can make sounds, it can vibrate and there is an app, and the app is only used in an instant, where you select your game. So if it actually, isn’t all that accessible from the app, the actual game, when you play it, is does all those things talk and makes noise and vibrates.
So it did seem really an awesome idea for everybody, for family game. It was also around $250, which is kind of pricey, but many people could play. It seemed very unique. And I like that they were working with an organization with visually impaired kids.
Jonathan Mosen: That’s awesome. I want to come back to this idea of accessibility, not being widely, known about or understood voiceover has been in the iPhone, for 13 years now. What do we have to do, to get accessibility further on the radar of these startup companies? Because we all know, that it is far easier to build an accessibility at the foundation, than to retrofit a product.
Mike May: Yeah. I’ll give you the example of, I think two well done products, that others could learn from. One is with all the connected appliances some of the apps are terrible. I know Gena has some ovens that Samsung and that app, was been a nightmare where she’s ended up not even using it.
But Bosch, I find their app is really good, called Home Connect and they even have demo, products so you can go in and download the Home Connect app and run it with the demos and see exactly how it will behave for you.
But I think one of my favorite examples at CES, was a company called BenjiLock. And maybe five years ago, I discovered them, just one guy at a booth and he had a fingerprint padlock. So a lot of locks are combination locks and he had a fingerprint and I said, “Boy, that would be great. Blind people could benefit from that.”
And he took that very seriously. He subsequently got funded by Shark Tank and subsequent to that, he got purchased by Hampton Products, which is a big, home producer of door knobs and light bulbs and everything. And I, we saw him at the show and he was still, really interested in hearing our feedback about how you set up the fingerprint and all the details of how his product could be used by blind people.
And fortunately, he got a lot of attention for that product. And in one of his announcements, I heard him talking he said, “I want to thank Mike May for, helping me make sure that this is accessible to blind people.”
Jonathan Mosen: I agree with you about Bosch, by the way, we have a Bosch Security System and it’s all internet driven and we get notifications, sent to the app and it is also very accessible, but it’s just unfortunate that it seems to be just the luck of the draw that if you can engage with somebody who really gets accessibility and is intrigued by it, then you might get lucky.
And then on the other hand, you might not. I’m actually having an interesting dialogue with Ubiquiti at the moment, and we’ve invested extensively in Ubiquiti Unifi equipment right throughout our house.
And it’s becoming increasingly inaccessible through its web interface and it’s just so far being impossible, to engage with anybody who really cares and wants to take ownership. That leaves us very vulnerable, when it comes to some of these appliances that we come to depend on. Suddenly you could be potentially locked out of, some key function of your home if something breaks and nobody cares.
Mike May: Yeah. One of the companies I’ve offered the beta tests and I offered all of these guys beta tests, and sometimes they send a product to do it.
One was an autonomous snow bot, snow removal device. So we’ll see how that app goes and I don’t think they’re going to send me a product because they’re $5,000 but Gena might want to say something about the Roborock vacuum, and much like the Shark and the Roomba and some of the others. And I really would like to see how well their app works, because the product’s pretty cool.
Gena Harper: Yeah. The Roborock. It was amazing to me. So we do have the regular robot type vacuums in our house, but this one, actually it seems to have super advanced capabilities where you can get one version of it where it can mop, it has rubber rollers.
So on my current Shark, it, I have to cut the dog hair out of the roller. And the guy assures me that with the rubber rollers, you don’t have to cut it out, that you can get it out easily. It also can mop so it has a section for liquid, fluid that you would use for mopping. Then the more advanced version actually has a little stand, like a little house that it goes back to its little house and it empties the canister itself. It refills the mopping liquid. And I think it changes one of the filters.
So it was fascinating. And I… It seemed really well developed as we keep talking. We don’t know, for sure about how the app is and if it would work. But that was one of my top favorite products that I saw at the show. I did want to, in… Also, mention that there’s a thing called the Hydrow, spelled H-Y-D-R-O-W, and it’s a connected, smart rower and it was really neat.
So it was a rowing machine that was more quiet and more smooth feeling than other rowing machines. It’s big, neat feature is there’s a big, huge screen TV in front of it. And it had pictures as though you were rowing in the grand canyon or rowing in the ocean to a Hawaiian island. It was amazing however, it seemed completely inaccessible and there was another, these two go together.
I mean, they’re different products, but called CLMBR with no vowel. So C-L-M-B-R and it was a climbing piece of equipment and with another big screen, both of them were touch screens. Both of them seemed completely inaccessible and you were asking like, well, what can we do? And the… To make hopefully, affect change, I did actually get email addresses of people on the team and just said, I’m going to email you and follow up with this.
And the issue is that there’s 4,000 people I’d like to email and I don’t have enough time to email everybody and kind of take on all this whole challenge. A few cases though I think that would make a big difference if we all collectively picked a few companies, wrote an email and tried to find a human. And as you say, try to see if they care. And I think that’s the first step and that’s the only way to do it. Sadly, it’s very time consuming.
Jonathan Mosen: Those exercise products, sound like one of those things you’ll find on the infomercials. Phone the number on your screen now, for your [crosstalk [01:25:44] machine.
Gena Harper: And they were beautiful. Also, about the Bosch products what was neat is that they currently have a lot of smart home products. So they have an oven that you can use outside, and you could tell what temperature and for how long. So that’s unique and now my soup drinker is going to start talking.
Jonathan Mosen: Yes. Right. Well, see that… I was going to go there because obviously there’s an alternative to apps which may or may not be inaccessible. And of course an app can be accessible tomorrow and inaccessible the next day and vice versa.
You’ve always got voice and I’ve been more and more aware of this. We bought a dehumidifier last year and in the end, the sole determining factor about the dehumidifier we ended up with, was that it was controllable via the Amazon ecosystem.
Gena Harper: Oh yeah. And then Bosch, is that so they had three products on display that I did think were really neat and very cutting edge. So another one was a dishwasher. And the dishwasher can tell if you’ve loaded all your glasses and in the top part of the dishwasher, or if you only have plates and bowls in the dishwasher.
The other thing is you can make your favorites and its favorite program. So you can program it for lasagna night and that it knows on lasagna night, you’re going to have more cheese stuck to your dishes then normally would be. And a dishwasher, and it… You can just always have your own pre settings that are favorites for different things. I thought that was unique as well with the Amazon ability.
And the third thing they had was super cool, I think it needs improvement, but it’s a refrigerator, a smart refrigerator. It has multiple cameras. It knows what you have in the refrigerator. The downside is you have to enter what you put in the refrigerator. So I think that’s a big negative. So you say, “Well, I put spinach in, I put carrots in.”
And this would be a wonderful product for me, for us, because also what it does is once you’ve entered the data, it says, “Oh, you have stuff in here to make beef stroganoff.” or “You have stuff to make chicken soup.” It remembers all the things that you have in there and tells you what you should do with them.
I don’t think it’s perfectly figured out though about how I would want it to know. I would want smart bowls, that the bowl, I could always put spinach in one bowl or I could label the item and then it would always know something, that seems it is going to turn into a lot of work, but it’s a really great concept.
Mike May: One last thing about Bosch is most, I didn’t realize that a core part of their business is making chips that are inside of our smart phones. It’s a big part of their business. And one of the things they’re working on that falls into my cool category was, coming up with ways to use haptics, to simulate the feel of a button. So if you do have a smooth surface and you want to have some positive feeling that you’re in the right spot, you would actually have a haptic that would simulate that button.
Jonathan Mosen: While we’re on the subject of robotic things, I guess we’ve always hoped for this future. We’ve been talking about dishwashers and fridges and ovens.
We want a time don’t we, where the robot will actually load the dishwasher and then the smart dishwasher will do its thing and then the robot will unload it. That sort of thing. Are we there yet? Was there anything in the robotic category that made you think-
Mike May: Oh my gosh.
Jonathan Mosen: … Wow, labor saving time is here.
Mike May: There was a lot. I’m on the waiting list, by the way, for the Amazon Astro, which has some interesting robotic features. And there’s things like-
Jonathan Mosen: I’m on the fence about that. I’ll be interested to see what you make of it when you get one.
Mike May: Yeah. And I had a chance to look at some things. One was I, picture a cart, that would go over to your refrigerator and deliver your dishes. And these are really designed for maybe people who can’t carry stuff. So the idea is more people are staying at home when they’re elderly.
So how can we help them move the laundry from place to place? And strangely enough, that one company doing that was called Labrador. And a lot of home delivery pods for indoor, delivering your food while you’re sitting in the airports, you don’t have to go to the restaurant. Here at the University of Nevada, Reno they use the Starship, they look like, ice chests and they zip around campus, delivering food to students.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. Bonnie was telling me about a children’s hospital that she visited in Massachusetts when she was working there and they have these robots and actually the kids love, being served, their meal by a robot. The gimmick value, the kind of coolness value, really cheers the kids up.
Mike May: Yeah. I wanted to mention in the cool category of things that, by who thought of that, a company called STARcase, and there’s hundreds of case companies at CES, but STARcase did something very unique, is they project your notifications on the back of your case, visually.
So they can enlarge those for people who are low vision. It’s not everything that’s on your home screen. Just picture, messages, notifications, those kinds of things. So if you get one, you can flip your phone over and see it in bright green lettering.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. Cause one of the things about CES is, sometimes you’re seeing prototypes aren’t you? And it can be difficult sometimes to know. Is this product available now? Is it’s something we might see in six months? Or perhaps we’ll never see it, is a kind of a proof of concept thing.
Mike May: Yeah. In that case, as many of them do also had a 2,500 milliamp battery built in and you can do light shows on the back of it. And I think it’s $149, I think that is available. But if you go to Eureka Park, which is the area where all the new companies are, they can only be there when they’re exhibiting for the first time, I’d say a third of those never see the light a day.
Jonathan Mosen: Any other, cases that stood out for either of you?
Gena Harper: Oh yeah. So the Targus backpacks, they, there are backpacks, a dime a dozen around. I really thought they were unique. One of their product lines, it’s all used recycled material to make these backpacks.
They also have one that is anti micro bacterial, which I thought was interesting. And they call that one for work. Then they also had a smart backpack where it already has the device inside that you can attach it to find my iPhone so if you lose it, but that’s just part of it without having to put a tile or something in it, to find it.
And I thought their designs were great. They were really good size. I’m always carrying backpacks. They have suitcases, different rollers. I really like their products.
Jonathan Mosen: Yes. I see this trend emerging now, where you have backpacks that offer charging capabilities for your smartphone or your laptop, even though you’re not going to get much charge out of a backpack for a laptop, I wouldn’t think, but also that getting either into the tile ecosystem or the Apple ecosystem for finding things to find my ecosystem.
I noted that in a couple of the laptop revisions that were announced at CES this year, they’ve got tile built in. And so if you lose your laptop or somebody takes your laptop, it might be possible to track it very easily.
Mike May: Yeah. There were some wallet companies that had those. Speaking of tracking, we saw a number of pet products for tracking and different things for pets. But the one collar, just the smart dog collar, was a dog tracker with both GPS and cell phone.
And somebody on Facebook said, “Well, you could just put a-”
Jonathan Mosen: Tile or an AirTag.
Mike May: … “Put a tile, an AirTag on there.” And you could, although you’re dependent on those ecosystems, whereas GPS is everywhere and cell phone is most everywhere.
If you want to have more reliable tracking system that they can reference a map and show you exactly where the dog is. The unique thing about that particular smart dog collar was it also, had a two-way speaker microphone.
So you could listen in on what was up with your dog if they’re barking away. I don’t know if the dog could understand you, if you said, “Hey, get your cellphone right now.” But that is unique because of the cell connection that you could actually have communication with the dog.
Jonathan Mosen: Do either of you, have any AirTag or a tile on your guide dog’s collar?
Mike May: Oh, not on the collar.
Gena Harper: No.
Mike May: No, I’ve, I haven’t in all my bags, nothing has gotten lost significantly enough for me to actually test it. But when you, when things come off on the luggage carousel, that’s the one time that I, particularly I’m looking with it, particularly with the tile, because it’s louder to use it, to find my bag.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. It’s a funny contrast we’ve got because they are much louder and obviously for me, that is a significant advantage. But then the precision finding with the AirTag sort of cancels that out.
Accessibility, let’s talk that, were there any products specifically relating to accessibility that caught either of your attentions?
Mike May: Well, the STARcase people, definitely when we walked up to the booth, they were already tuned in to how this would be good for low vision. I’d say the only thing specifically, well, GoodMaps was there with our products for indoor navigation.
APH did not come, but they would’ve been there with all of their products. I’d say the Biped was the thing that was most directly, there for blind people. And it was in that Eureka Park area where companies come that are demoing for the first time.
Jonathan Mosen: What is that?
Mike May: It is one, in a long succession of obstacle detection devices that people worked on over the last 40 years. And technology gets better and smarter and cheaper so we’ll see where it goes. They’re based in Switzerland, it’s B-I-P-E-D and it was a pretty substantial rig that you put on your head with various cameras that were meant to detect what was in front of you, and to do some obstacle detection. And it has a pretty complex feedback loop with stereo to indicate you if something’s on the left or the right. CES is kind of a loud place. So I didn’t get a good sense of how it worked. My concern with any of these obstacle detection devices, like the mini guide or the WeWalk or any of the other ones using sonar is that, by the time they demonstrate or indicate to you what’s in front of you, you would pick it up with your cane or go around it with your dog. Anyway, so, I’m not sure the incremental value is worth the cost. Well, I wanted to, since I brought it up earlier, make sure I come in on the Aira type streaming video glasses.
We’re not there yet, but I’ve bought some of these products to test. And I think with some cooperation with the manufacturer, one could make something mainstream work. The two that I have one is called Zetronix, Z-E-T-R-O-N-I-X, the Castro pro. These are discrete cameras. So people don’t really know you have a camera in your glasses and they’re decent looking glasses. And I like having them in case I have an incident with a ride share and need to record a rejection situation. And that just records the video and very high quality and audio onto the glasses. And then you have to dump it later onto your computer and so forth. And then Gena and I both recently got the new Ray-Ban glasses that are of course, very stylish, different models that you can choose, but those have cameras and audio.
They only allow a three second video clip at a time, but the interface is quite nice. I’m still learning about them. The app is let’s call it 50% accessible, still learning that. But it’s interesting that the general market is seeing a purpose for on the spot video recording. It also makes it easier for a blind person rather than trying to point the camera in the right direction and hold it in your hand and deal with your cane. If you have a video camera on your head so to speak and your glasses, it’s a lot easier to just take casual videos and snapshots, but ultimately if we can use these for be my eyes or Aira or those application, that would be the ultimate.
Jonathan Mosen: The Zetronix glasses, do they work standalone? Or do they somehow interface with the iPhone?
Mike May: They work standalone. The only interface really is if somebody wanted to look at the video on the iPhone. So the iPhone Wi-Fi direct to the glasses allows it, the iPhone to be used as a monitor.
Jonathan Mosen: Okay. So they actually record their video on the glasses themselves on storage, on the glasses.
Mike May: Yeah. And you buy them with 64 or 128 or 256 gigabytes.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. That, you’re right. That would be really handy for ride share refusals, wouldn’t it?
Mike May: Yeah. I’ve been using them.
Jonathan Mosen: How would that potentially integrate with Aira, do you think?
Mike May: Well, what needs to happen is that the… And I’m working with a student who’s trying to put together this kind of interface, but the idea is that Aira is accessed through a certain URL and they have their dashboard. So I know they’ll be cooperative. And Troy has mentioned this in a number of times, they’d like to see this happen. Send that video instead of by Wi-Fi to your phone as a monitor, to your phone that relays it over the cell network, or local Wi-Fi to the URL so you can interact directly with that Aira agent.
Jonathan Mosen: Do you think that, that would be possible to do that sufficiently quickly enough to be real time for when you’re navigating and you need instructions from an agent?
Mike May: Well, you can’t have any lag and that’s a problem right now. You can do it with lag, but it looks promising that it’s possible to get around that hurdle.
Jonathan Mosen: All right. Well, let’s talk about gift ideas because it’s very hard to buy something for the geek in your life. Particularly if the geek in your life has got all the obvious things already. And Gena, you made notes about a number of things that you thought could make really good gift ideas that you found at CES.
Gena Harper: Yes. That was one of the things I was in search of. I’m always looking for like a fun gift that somebody doesn’t have or is unique. So the Peeku that I mentioned earlier, the game I thought was probably my favorite. Another one that’s available already on Amazon is called Govee, G-O-V-E-E. And Govee has a number of products that the one I liked, it’s a lamp. You put it on kind of a counter desktop. It has all kinds of colors. It’s constantly changing colors. You can sync it with music that you’re listening to. You can sync it with people’s voices. So if you’re in the room talking, it’ll be going off and on in sync with you speaking. So I thought that was a fun one. It also is, I would say affordable between $60 and $80.
Another really cute one is called the Lovebox. And the lovebox is, yeah I know. Wait till you hear the one out after the lovebox. So the lovebox is a square little box like a jewelry box. And on the front, it has a heart that can move back and forth. So it’s raised, it’s like 3D heart. And there’s a sender and a receiver. So the receiver has the box, the lovebox, the sender sends text messages to this lovebox. And then the little heart on the love box rotates when you get a message. And you open it up and I do believe it is not accessible because it’s written there inside the box, the message that you send to the person. And so I thought that was really cute, also affordable. Isn’t that sweet?
Jonathan Mosen: Valentine’s day is coming up.
Gena Harper: Exactly. So the lovebox and that is on the market currently. The other thing that was super funny and intriguing to all of us was a company called Satisfyer. So, that’s spelled S-A-T-I-F-Y-E-R. And Satisfyer is actually, it’s what I want to say. Sorry. Oh,
Mike May: Speaking of haptics.
Gena Harper: Yeah. It’s-
Jonathan Mosen: Oh, Gena you’ll go blind. I tell you.
Gena Harper: Exactly. Or that’s how it happened, maybe. So the Satisfyer is personal vibrator devices. But the unique thing, and the reason they were at CES is they have an app. So to accompany the hardware aspect, which they were giving out free samples of their hardware. It has an app that has stories, music, all kinds of other features that would be following the category of Erotica. That was a very popular, very long line in that business.
Mike May: And those stories would be connected to the device. So it would respond based on the app story.
Jonathan Mosen: Okay.
Gena Harper: The last one that I mentioned was the, it’s called Jordy light outdoor. And I know there’s a lot of outdoor devices and things. It’s actually a light. I believe if I’m remembering correctly, it looks to me about the size of a dog collar. It’s rubber. It has, I think, like 150 lights in it. And it is really used for regular outdoor. You could use it for camping. You could use it for search and rescue and you would carry it with you. And if you wanted a little light in your tent, you could make the light super low.
It does use an app and you can control the brightness of the light, the color of the light. It can do different, go off and on in different motion sensor type things. It was also very affordable, which was on my mind, it was around $90. It’s coming out at the end of March. And it just seemed unique for anybody that has like a kid that’s into outdooring or backpacking or any of that kind of things. I think it would be very helpful. And I think it would address some safety issues and help them be safer than currently.
Jonathan Mosen: When you go to CES, how many of these products are available for you to purchase on the spot? If you’ve got a platinum credit card and you want to rock that thing, can you walk away with a lot of stuff? Or is a lot of it really just show and tell?
Mike May: Rarely can you walk away with it. Sometimes there’s freebies. I think Gena, you got a free battery pack, right?
Gena Harper: Oh yeah. I got a free battery pack. That’s nice. I did also… I think given that I just visited what I visited and the CS was huge. I did buy a light, that’s an infrared light, that’s red. And apparently it’s very helpful for people that have skin conditions and joint issues. And I was wasn’t sure if it was legit but it seemed legit. And I have used it subsequently for a knee joint issue that I have, and it seems to be working great. And I did buy it on the spot. And I think half the amount of things that I saw, you could actually take it with you now, or buy on a website that’s available. And then the other half were up and coming in the summer or in the next few months.
Mike May: Oh, I should mention a couple years ago I was looking for a connected coffee maker that did everything, grind the beans, extrude them, give you a cup of coffee, just with a touch of a button. And I had a product that did that with buttons from 20 years ago. Well, it’s finally died and it was hard to find one with a good app, but I think we’ve discovered it. And just ordered one it’s called Spinn, S-P-I-N-N. The app seems very accessible and it does all of those things. And you controlled a 100% of the functions from the app itself.
Jonathan Mosen: Any other gadgets that we’ve overlooked before we wrap it up?
Mike May: If anybody needs a cell phone booster, I used to buy Wilson products. There’s a company called SureCall, S-U-R-E-C-A-L-L. And if you’re into walkie talkies, I’ve had a number that are accessible, some Kenwoods for point to point communication. There’s a company called BaoFeng, B-A-O ― F-E-N-G. And there are eight Watts as opposed to the normal five Watts of most radios.
Jonathan Mosen: What’s the use case for those? Given that quite a few walkie talkie apps exist for your smartphone.
Mike May: We do a lot of skiing and so skiing environments are good or hiking, or we used radios at CES because there’s so much interference that you’re texting and cell phone, isn’t all that reliable, or certainly no Wi-Fi that you can rely on. So radios were really fun to be able to try to find each other.
Jonathan Mosen: Actually, that’s another thing that we got to see at CES, which is a lot of new Wi-Fi 6E devices, whether it be access points or routers and things. So we will see a lot more Wi-Fi 6E in the next year or so.
Gena Harper: We use the radios also scheme, which I thought was really helpful. We just would zip it in our pocket. The volume is much louder than your phone is. And so that was the handy thing about using the walkie talkies was being able to hear better.
Mike May: And looking through my notes, Jonathan, referring to cases with right now, until we have hands free cameras, there’s a company called zero G cases and they have nice cross body design cases that you could use for hanging a phone out there to use with Aira and be my eyes.
Jonathan Mosen: Anything else from you, Gena?
Gena Harper: One more, steam box home. And that was a really fun lunchbox. It has the capability of heating. It can heat three meals, and it only takes three to five minutes per meal to heat them. And it has comes with a special container that what you put in the lunchbox. And you would have to buy extra containers, but it seemed really handy. It felt a little heavy to me, but I’m sure they’re working on that. I think it’s about three pounds. I just thought for the kind of life we live in my life, I’m always carrying food on airplanes and doing crazy things with lunch boxes. So it was very unique and seemed pretty promising to me.
Jonathan Mosen: Is it battery powered? How does that work?
Mike May: It’s a heavy battery, but yeah, it is.
Jonathan Mosen: How cool.
Gena Harper: Yeah, it was really neat.
Jonathan Mosen: Especially for people who usually tend to eat at their desk. That could be quite useful to have something nice and warm to eat.
Gena Harper: Yeah. And even for traveling or if you’re picnicking or backpacking, I think it’s a lot of uses.
Mike May: Oh, one last thing. My new favorite stereo speakers, the SVS. Wonderful speakers, high end from bookshelf to really fantastic speakers.
Jonathan Mosen: Okay. Tell me a bit more about those.
Mike May: They feel like a piano. They have that kind of finish. So they’re tactically very nice. They have one for base. You can actually inset the woofer into your wall. So it doesn’t take up a lot of space. If you don’t mind cutting out a hole between the studs and the wall. I had the same speakers for 25 years, and I said, I’m not going to get rid of these, because nothing sounds better. And the president of that company who I got to know, he said, look, we have a 45 day return policy. We’ll send these to you. If they don’t beat out your speakers, then send them back. And I did that and I donated my other speakers to an NPR station and I have the SVS. They’re really fantastic sounding.
Jonathan Mosen: So are these for high-fi systems, are they Bluetooth? How do they work?
Mike May: They’re high-fi, they also have the powered Wi-Fi modules, if you want to populate your house with those.
Jonathan Mosen: Okay. So is there an app that accompanies it?
Mike May: No. I don’t have the Wi-Fi one, so they may have an app.
Jonathan Mosen: Because it sounds like if they’ve got that Wi-Fi technology where presumably you can synchronize speakers across the house and they’re trying to compete in the Sono space.
Mike May: Yeah.
Gena Harper: One more thing is, I know today the rage is, a lot of people are dealing with sleep issues and sleep apnea. And there’s a pillow come out called MyPillow smart home. And basically it’s a pillow that learns all your sleep habits. And based on if you’re snoring or not snoring, it inflates and deflates itself to help you have a better night’s sleep.
Jonathan Mosen: Is the MyPillow guy, the guy who got mixed up with Trump after the…-
Gena Harper: Oh, it’s not that guy.
Jonathan Mosen: Not that. I’m just…
Gena Harper: No, it’s different. It’s a company. Yeah. It’s a company. I believe it’s the company’s called Tenminds. So T-E-N-M-I-N-D-S is the company behind the MyPillow smart home.
Mike May: I don’t think they call it MyPillow. I think they called motion pillow or something like that.
Gena Harper: Oh yeah. You’re right. Sorry it is called motion pillow.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah because I’m pretty sure my pillow is the guy that-
Jonathan Mosen: Right.
Mike May: And it has a little mini airbag inside the pillow to pop your head up.
Jonathan Mosen: This has been an amazing rump through all sorts of fascinating gadget. It sounds like just such a worthy thing to do, not just to find out what’s going on in the tech space, but to just spread a little bit of accessibility love around the place.
Mike May: Yeah. And the amazing thing is that CTA provides free guides. So for three days you can have a person walking around on with you, giving you full access. To my knowledge, it’s the only conference of that magnitude that does that. So I highly recommend people look planning ahead and going to Las Vegas in 2023 and see for yourself. And then I also mentioned that Gena and I will be on the web interface for tech talk on February 7th at [5:00] PM Pacific. So if you actually want to ask us some questions and hear more about this stuff, we’ll be there.
Jonathan Mosen: Fantastic. Thank you both for taking us through some of your findings at CES. When is your access world article likely to appear Gena?
Gena Harper: I was just thinking that Jonathan, I am going to have to reach out it. It needs to be soon. I think in the next week, it’s kind of a challenge because there’s so many unique things. And Mike and I were talking like I can’t list all these things in one 900 word article. So I’ll do my best. And I’m really grateful because of AFB, I was able to participate in unveiled, which is an early event that only media can go to. So I really appreciate them allowing me to go on their behalf.
Jonathan Mosen: Wonderful. Thank you both. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.
Mike May: Thanks for having us.
Gena Harper: Thank you.
Jonathan Mosen: And that exciting music harold’s another year of the Bonnie bulletin. Welcome.
Bonnie Mosen: Hi guys. Happy New year.
Jonathan Mosen: Happy new year. Happy new year. Did you have a good break?
Bonnie Mosen: Sort of, I had a cold most, or sinus or allergy or something. Most of it after we got back from Invercargill so didn’t get to do some of the things that I wanted to do. So maybe it wasn’t the break I wanted, but the break I needed. If that makes any sense, because I did get to sleep a lot and read a lot.
Jonathan Mosen: And we would just like to stress that it was not the Rona?
Bonnie Mosen: No, it wasn’t the Rona.
Jonathan Mosen: It wasn’t the Rona.
Bonnie Mosen: I think it was the very dry hotel in Invercargill.
Jonathan Mosen: Well, that’s a good segue because we do have an interesting hotel story to tell today.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: And I think we won’t name the hotel because in the end they got profusely apologetic as they ought to have. But I think it’s an interesting advocacy story because it goes to show what you might be able to achieve. Not in every circumstance, because I’ve certainly seen people just digging in and not being willing to engage. But if you remain steadfast but polite, but you still take some decisive action. You never know what might be possible. So do you want to recount what happened to us as we headed to David’s wedding?
Bonnie Mosen: Sure. So we went up last weekend for David’s wedding to Joanna. So we petted up to Whanganui on Thursday with Heidi and Henry, and left quite early because they wanted to. It was their fourth wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been four years. And they wanted to have a picnic at the place they got married. So they wanted to get on the road early, which is understandable. So we got up there about [10:30] or 11. We went and got some groceries for their picnic an ourselves because usually we stay in a suite that has a mini fridge. And we’ve stayed at this particular hotel before a few times and had no problems, very good food, probably some of the best food I’ve ever had in a hotel. And I’ve stayed in some pretty five star hotels.
Jonathan Mosen: They do a jolly good steak I must say.
Bonnie Mosen: They do have really good food.
Jonathan Mosen: Exceptional steak.
Bonnie Mosen: Jonathan’s went in first because I knew that we’d have to show vaccine passes and all that, which is fine. But I figured he could go in first and check us in. So he went in and checked in and then I came in because there’s two parts to the hotel. One’s the main hotel, which is your typical hotel. And then there’s some outside motel type rooms and apartments around a swimming pool. So we were in the main hotel where we’d never stayed before. So I came in to show the vaccine pass and all that good stuff and brought our suitcases, and groceries in. So we’re in the lobby-
Jonathan Mosen: And I should say that up until this point, they were really chatty and welcoming and all those good things and they allocated one of the newer rooms in the hotel. All of that sort of stuff. So there was absolutely no sign of rudeness or difficulty.
Bonnie Mosen: So he came in and this woman is looking at my vaccine pass and fine. And then this other woman’s behind her and saying, “Oh, I didn’t know there was a guide dog.” And I said, “Yeah.” And she says, “Well, you didn’t tell us you were bringing one.” I said, “Well, I actually don’t have to.” And then she went on about how they had had a guide dog previously stay there that had left “mites” in the room-
Jonathan Mosen: Mites?
Bonnie Mosen: … In the room. And that was one of the newly refurbished rooms. And I said, “Well, you know I’m sorry that happened. But that’s not my problem” because in those situations you’re kind of like what the heck? And she kept going on about this refurbishment and furniture. And I said, “Well, you know I’m sorry that’s not my dog is not going to destroy your furniture.” And I wanted to say, what if a person went in there and destroyed your furniture, but she kept… Was really obsessed with this and kept going on.
I said, “Well, I’m sorry that’s not my problem. I didn’t cause it and you really can’t take it out of me. She kept going on. And so she finally reluctantly was like, okay, so the dog won’t destroy the furn…? I’m like, no. I said, “I can’t keep her from walking around the room,” but you know, hopefully you clean the rooms afterwards and get rid of the hair. So they decided to put a blanket down. So the dog couldn’t get near the furniture. And I said, “Where’s the gra… Oh, there’s no grass at this hotel. And I’m like, well, there was last time I stayed here. Did you refurbish the grass too? And oh yeah, in the other room you stayed in. So they decided to put us in the room we were in.
Jonathan Mosen: Which was not a refurbished one.
Bonnie Mosen: Which was not a refurbished room. Which had grass out of it. And it was really just you’re kind of shocked. So, the more we thought about it, the more disturbed we were. And we did try to find another hotel because it wasn’t an outright guide dog refusal. But when you have these situations, you don’t particularly feel comfortable about staying there.
Jonathan Mosen: It made us feel like we were just unwanted and that we had some sort of contagious disease or something like that. It was a very strange thing. And it was pretty hostile and-
Bonnie Mosen: Very hostile.
Jonathan Mosen: … I suppose the thing that made me annoyed is that why should we as a blind couple be held responsible for allegedly another blind person’s actions. And if they had a bad experience, the hotel staff had a bad experience with a guide dog. Then in my view, they have every right to seek reparations from that guide dog owner in the same way that if you’re a human and you trash the room, or you do something inappropriate, you leave the room in a bad state. Then the hotel has every right to seek reparations from you. But don’t take it out on another blind couple who had nothing to do with it.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: You know it’s just absolutely extraordinary. It’s like all blind people are somehow responsible for the actions of one blind person.
Bonnie Mosen: So, I called, even though I’m not a graduate of the guy dog school here, I called them because if it was another guide dog, it was one of theirs. But I just wanted to find out what I could do and explain the situation. And they had the head of guide dog services called the hotel and essentially said what we said. We’re not responsible for it. If, in fact it was a guide dog handler. And I kind of have questions about that just because of what happened later. But if it was a guide dog handler, they have the name of the person, they could have got them to pay for it, or called the school to find out if it was indeed a graduate. The reason I have questions of whether it actually was a service animal or guide dog is because I saw dogs at the hotel that were not service animals.
Jonathan Mosen: When you get a situation like that, the way I felt about it was I just didn’t want to stay there. I felt like-
Bonnie Mosen: I didn’t either.
Jonathan Mosen: … We were not welcome. And the best way that you can show a business as I have discussed elsewhere in this episode actually. The best way that you can show a business that they’ve gone too far is to take your money away from them. So my hope was that we could find somewhere else. And then we could wander in confidently to the checkout that very afternoon, when we were booked for a three day stay and say, we are leaving and we will be seeking a full refund of the charges, and we’ll be taking whatever action is necessary, but we couldn’t do it because there was some sort of activity in Whanganui that weekend. And no other hotel could accommodate us for the three nights.
Bonnie Mosen: No.
Jonathan Mosen: And what I said to some people I was talking to about this was, let’s say that it had been, oh, we had a woman staying in this room last time. And last time we had a woman in there, she spilled red wine on the carpet and left a stain. So we really don’t want any more women staying in the room or even worse of course, pick whatever racial minority you like and insert it here. We had somebody who’s Maori staying here last time. I mean, it would be absolutely outrageous that would get on the front page of the newspaper.
Bonnie Mosen: It essentially is profiling.
Jonathan Mosen: It is profiling.
Bonnie Mosen: It is profiling.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah.
Bonnie Mosen: And like you said, if it had been a person of a different ethnicity, or religion and they did that, they would be in big trouble.
Jonathan Mosen: Right. As they ought to be.
Bonnie Mosen: They ought to be.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. But finally on the Friday afternoon I got a Profuse apology. The interesting thing about this was I was reluctant. You know people on Facebook and Twitter that I raised this with kept saying, well, talk to the manager. I was fairly confident that it was the manager because it occurred to me that only a manager would go on and on about how they’d just spend all this money refurbishing it.
That is something that a manager would be very conscious of because they would’ve been dealing with the accounts. So I was pretty sure that we weren’t going to get any satisfaction from the manager because it was the manager at fault.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: And I was right about that. And we did get the manager calling and to be absolutely fair, the manager could not have been more apologetic. I mean they really got it. They were incredibly apologetic gave us flowers, and chocolates, and also a complete refund of all of our charges, and said that there were various things going on, but there was no excuse what they had done was not acceptable and they knew it. And it was really a very full some sincere apology. And so sometimes you just have to hold the line on these things.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah. And I think the fact that we didn’t go to the media and we didn’t do that-
Jonathan Mosen: We thought about it.
Bonnie Mosen: We thought about it. But you know, in the end… Some people go in guns blazing loaded for bear. And I think that’s not the first approach. Sometimes it could be, but if they get really nasty and it escalates to police, that sort of thing. But I think most times is to try to negotiate. And people have asked, would I stay there again?
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. I don’t know if I would.
Bonnie Mosen: I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’m thankful we don’t have to go to Whanganui that often.
Jonathan Mosen: So no, but I just think it’s a good time to close that chapter on our lives I think. There are other hotels. I love to hear from you. So if you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down or with an audio attachment to Jonathan, J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N, @mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in, use the listener line number in the United States, 864- 606- 673-6.