Staunton Media Lab News

Jonell Floyd and Steve O'Keefe

Staunton Media Lab Fails at ICAP

They say entrepreneurs should fail fast, and so the Staunton Media Lab has lived up to this legend by failing the Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) offered by the Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC). ICAP is boot camp for taking innovative solutions to the venture capital stage. Staunton Media Lab failed to secure the minumum 20 interviews required, but that did not stop us from benefitting from the program, the instructors, the textbooks, and the many interviews we did conduct with heavy users of multimedia.

Staunton Media Lab = Content Conversion

While we failed the ICAP startup bootcamp, Staunton Media Lab learned enough from customer and prospect interviews to approach content generation from a whole different angle. What we found was that marketers want clever video to attract, connect and convert, but experience shows it's difficult and expensive to get something that actually works. What if you could take all the content you already have lying around, like emails and blog posts and reports and spreadsheets and slideshows and recordings, wave the magic wand, and turn it into clever little branded content nuggets? That's the new Staunton Media Lab!

We're Excited to Give You an Estimate

What would it would cost to generate a steady stream of clever content nuggets -- daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly -- optimized for the channels you use, aligned with your audience and your brand, served in simple branded frames that keep the choices and costs to a minimum? We make videos from text, slideshows from articles, books from blog posts -- in other words, what you need from what you got. Let us start converting content and prospects for you!

Two Breakthroughs in Assistive Tech

Staunton Media Lab executive director, Steve O'Keefe, was the guest speaker at the Work/Study Breakfast at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind (VSDB) on May 10th, where he demonstrated two significant new assistive technology tools.

Velcroing a phone to his vest, O'Keefe was able to project his talk to the hard of hearing and deaf using Google LiveTranscribe. The app was released in a beta version three months ago and is available only for Android smartphones at this time.

O'Keefe worked with graduating senior, Jonell Floyd, to improve Jonell’s writing abilities. After months of effort, with the assistance of VSDB staff Sharon Ernest, Lisa Walters, Ann Christian, and Daniel Martin, Jonell was able to use Google Docs Voice Typing to increase his writing speed from roughly seven WPM to roughly 70 WPM, which is faster than most people type.

Jonell demonstrated the difference in a live performance, writing sentence after sentence, properly punctuated and capitalized, using Google Docs Voice Typing. While voice typing has been available for some time, the new Google transcription engine was upgraded six months ago and is nearly flawless.

Both Google Live Transcribe and Google Docs Voice Typing are free. For best results with Google Docs Voice Typing, use a USB headset microphone and sit up straight!

Staunton Media Lab News is published quarterly by the Staunton Media Lab, a media arts program for the deaf, the blind and the uniquely able. Thank you for taking an interest in our program and for your continued support!

 

Posted in Blog

The Hidden Side of Helen Keller

Helen Keller in 1920

A Book Review by Steve O'Keefe
Executive Director of the Staunton Media Lab

Out of the Dark: Essays, Letters, and Addresses on Physical and Social Vision
by Helen Keller
Kessinger Publishing Rare Reprints
ISBN 1437234704, 282 pages, hardcover
Originally published in 1920 by Doubleday, Page & Company
Picture of Helen Keller in 1920 courtesy Wikimedia Commons

If you only know Helen Keller as the deaf blind girl who learns language at the water pump, you don't know Helen Keller. That willful little girl grew up into a willful woman suffragette who spoke with her hands loudly enough to be heard around the world. This book reveals the hidden side of Helen Keller which has nearly been erased from history.

The Miracle Worker is the name of a book, a play and movie about the young Helen Keller. The miracle worker of the title is not Helen Keller but her teacher, Anne Sullivan, who taught Keller to finger spell and sign, and to write and read Braille. Sullivan was herself blind for a number of years but regained her sight. The Miracle Worker doesn't tell what happened after Helen Keller learned to read.

The Wikipedia version of the Helen Keller story is that she went on to graduate from college, became an advocate for the blind and eventually a much-loved worldwide ambassador for the disabled. The hidden story is quite a bit different.

I had heard that Helen Keller had become a radical Socialist firebrand who was a thorn in the side of several U.S. Presidents. I had heard that she wrote books later in life that were banned and are now unavailable. I searched online and only found hints about Helen Keller's Socialist writings. One day, passing through Alabama for the 45th time, I decided to visit the Helen Keller Home at Ivy Green -- including the famous water pump where she learned to talk using the tingling of her palms -- and to find out more about these forbidden texts.

I should have known it was a fool's errand. Tuscumbia, Alabama, is not the place one would expect to find works by the beloved matriarch of the disabled on the subjects of economics, politics and the labor struggle. Let me make this shockingly clear: The Helen Keller Home does not display any of the books Helen Keller wrote herself, except for The Story of My Life, which was co-written by Keller and Anne Sullivan while Keller was in college. The only books in the Helen Keller Home gift shop and book store are by other people, such as The Miracle Worker, and books about her interpreters, Anne Sullivan (until 1936) and Polly Thompson (until 1960). Keller died in 1968 at the age of 88, outliving both her beloved companions.

Posted in Blog

The ARMi Assistive Technology Arm

 Staunton Media Lab Unveils ARMi Assistive Technology Arm        

ARMi Brings Tech Tools Within Reach of Disabled

Putting 1,000 helping hands into homes this holiday season.

(Staunton, VA — September 1, 2017) On Friday, September 1, the Staunton Media Lab will debut a breakthrough in assistive technology — the ARMi Assistive Technology Arm — putting advanced technology within reach of the disabled.

The ARMi (short for "Advanced Recreational Media Interface") is a portable, mechanical arm that allows for "hands-free" use of smartphones, tablet computers, remote controls, and other useful devices. The ARMi Assistive Technology Arm also holds many devices useful for disabled or mobility-challenged persons, including a mirror, a magnifying glass and a magnetic plate.

The ARMi was developed as an inexpensive document reader for the blind. Document readers for the blind can cost several thousand dollars — too expensive for many who need them. However, smartphones that cost less than $100 can read documents to the blind — if the person has help holding the phone. The ARMi Assistive Technology Arm provides those helping hands. With the ARMi and a smart phone, blind persons can easily position the phone and have books and documents read out loud by the phone.

The ARMi begins selling on Amazon October 1 for only $99. However, during the month of September, the ARMi is available for only $69 through Kickstarter. Supplies are limited to 1,000 units.

Posted in Blog

How Does a Blind Person Edit Video?

Image of blind video editor Coley Evans

The Staunton Media Lab (SML) is pleased to present a new video release entitled How Does a Blind Person Edit Video? Watch as SML Audio Director Coley Evans, who is blind from birth, edits a video using Windows Movie Maker.

SML hopes you will share this extraordinary video. It's built around a screen capture from Coley's first effort at video editing. You are seeing something even Coley can't see: what it looks like when a blind person edits video.

 How Does a Blind Person Edit Video? was made with the following process:

  • Coley downloads video from YouTube and opens in Windows Movie Maker
  • Coley starts the screen capture program, Screencastify, which makes a movie of his desktop
  • The screen capture movie is converted to MP4 using VLC software
  • Video of Coley editing video without a monitor or a mouse was added
       (Shot with a Canon HD Cam saved to an SD card)
  • Video of short interview with Coley was added
       (Shot with a Sony MiniDV Cam to an EZ Grabber capture card to OBS)
  • Music was downloaded from a credited source of copyright-free music
  • Two synthetic, machine-generated voices are heard in this video
  • The final video was edited by Devon Donis, Video Editor at SML, using Adobe Premier
  • Directed by Steve O'Keefe, SML Executive Director
  • Produced by Staunton Media Lab — Video & Audio Editing by the Deaf, Blind and Uniquely Able

Copyright-Free 2017 by Staunton Media Lab. Please feel free to download and distribute this video as long as the contents are not changed and this copyright notice is intact. Thank You!

Posted in Blog

Assistive Tech Expected to Grow Rapidly

As Staunton Media Lab continues to cover the latest strides in assistive tech, we'd like to start 2017 by focusing on recently released reports that forecast rapid growtth in the field. The three recent reports we'd like to highlight focus on voice-recognition technologies across several industries, including healthcare; on assistive rehabilitation technologies like robotic prosthetics; and on the needs of the elderly.

Voice Recognition Tech Forecast

Research and Markets released its "Global Markets and Technologies for Voice Recognition" report earlier this month, an update from its now three-year-old report on voice recognition technologies, "due to the growing demand for enhanced enterprise, consumer and healthcare applications that feature speech as a primary user interface." The report covered "advances in machine learning, statistical data-mining techniques, ubiquitous mobile devices and other technologies," spanning across many markets and industries, including, for instance, transcript applications for healthcare, and voice-integrated navigation systems.

According to the press release:

"Technologies covered include overall hardware, software and devices as well as automatic speech recognition, text-to-speech, speaker verification, speech analytics, call center, interactive voice response, voice-enabled mobile search, games and set top boxes, digital signal processors, gateways, microelectromechanical systems and Bluetooth technology."

Posted in Blog

Assistive Tech Provides Learning Tools for All of Us

Did you ever pause to think that the term "assistive technology" is a tautology, like "free gift" and "new innovation"? All technology should be assistive, by definition. In many cases, Assistive Technology we refer to means technology specifically designed to help the disabled and uniquely-abled individuals.

Truth is, assistive technology needn't be so narrowly defined. It helps us all to communicate more accurately and successfully. As the latest wave of apps and software that falls into that broadly defined category demonstrates, it's for anyone who could use some help expressing themselves, like forming thoughts, putting them into words, and spelling them correctly. After all, they are just tools that allow you to perform tasks faster and with greater results, freeing up your time and mind to do more, with less stress.

Forbes contributor Jenn Choi, in her recent article titled "Cutting Edge School Tech: Focus On Differences," writes about using assistive tech in education that has the power to "change the playing field for the student and affect the whole entire classroom."

She elaborates:

"[A]dvancements in ed tech are allowing a great number of individual students with disabilities who really need technology not only reach higher levels of learning, but the move allows for a positive ripple effect throughout the classroom. That is, fellow students also experience numerous benefits just by being a classmate of the student with a disability."

Posted in Blog

Affordable, Accessible Cell Phone Plans

"Accessibility has to do with price, and if the technology is not affordable then it really isn't accessible," said Executive Director Steve O'Keefe during the October 19 broadcast of SML Live! by Staunton Media Lab. Steve was talking about cell phone plans that would fit particularly well the budget of a family with kids who also need a phone.

"One of the things people complain about most is the cost of cell phones and cell phone plans, particular for children and the underage," Steve said. "It can add up if you have a large family."

The April 2016 Consumer Reports noted:

"The Big Four carriers' shell-game-like pricing practices have become so convoluted, you need an accounting degree to decipher them. They continually shift prices up or down according to the number of phone lines you need and the amount of data you're purchasing. They further complicate matters with 'special' short-term offers to lure customers from rivals."

The deals, the article points out, have a short life span and "often vaporize when a customer buys a new phone or makes other changes." Still, comparison-shopping, perhaps due to the sheer number of options, has become a "tiny bit less onerous."

Posted in Blog

Staunton Media Lab Named DBVI Business of the Year

   From left to right: Cindy Roberts, Coordinator of Workforce Services, DBVI; Coley Evans, Audio Director, SML; Tiffany Sweat, Administrative Assistant, DBVI; Steve O'Keefe, Executive Director, SML

 

Staunton Media Lab Named DBVI Business of the Year

Coley Evans, SML Audio Director, Named Employee of the Year

Statewide Recognition for Employing the Blind and Vision Impaired

For Immediate Release
Monday, October 10, 2016

The Staunton Media Lab, a media arts program for the deaf, blind and uniquely able, was named DBVI Business of the Year at a ceremony in Richmond on October 5th at the Azalea Avenue campus of the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI).

Posted in Blog

How Can You Help?

Volunteer.  We need you! Do you know sign language? Do you know Braille? Do you know English? Do you have language? Then SML needs you! Call us at 540-324-7023, or email

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