HP has unveiled what it claims is the first mainstream handheld PC designed to meet the needs of blind and visually impaired users.
The device, dubbed Maestro, was co-developed with VisuAide, a firm specialising in development of products for customers with impaired sight.
Based on the HP iPAQ Pocket PC h4150 platform, the Maestro features text-to-speech technology and a tactile keyboard membrane over its touch screen, so that partially sighted or blind users do not need a stylus for applications.
Scheduled to begin shipping in September, Maestro also supports Bluetooth wireless communications, and can be operated with or without an external Braille or standard keyboard.
"Our objective was to have a low-cost, highly portable mobile computing solution available to a larger number of blind and visually impaired individuals," said Gilles Pepin, president of VisuAide.
HP said the device was developed through its Accessibility Programme Office, which works with assistive technology companies such as VisuAide to create products for users with disabilities.
"At HP, we believe that accessibility is the result of combined efforts," said Michael Takemura, director of the Accessibility Programme Office at HP.
Maestro follows Trekker as VisuAide's second product using the HP iPAQ Pocket PC. Launched in 2003, Trekker used global positioning system technology, talking digital maps and talking menus to provide real-time information on surroundings for visually impaired users.
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