By Michael D. Barber
Rehab Technology Specialist
Do you remember when you first got your brand new Victor Reader Stream? Do you recall how excited you were to have a device that would play the NLS talking books as well as Audible.com books, read Bookshare.org books, play music and could even be used to record short voice notes and even meeting or classroom discussions? It has been about six years since that first little device became available.
Humanware has now come out with a major update to this little guy, which I think is very exciting. I was able to get my hands on this device at the twenty-eighth International CSUN Conference on Disabilities in San Diego last week and wanted to tell our readers all about it.
The first thing I noticed about the new Stream was the difference in size. It was noticeably smaller than the original Stream I have–perhaps 25 to 30% smaller. One would think smaller would mean less sound volume, but not so. Even in a crowded hall, I could tell that the sound volume was greater than the current product.
There are a few changes to the exterior of the device which will be of interest. First, there is no longer the sliding door on the back of the unit, which exposes the battery. Instead, there is a latch which, when pressed, allows removal of the entire battery. On the front of the unit, in the topmost row of buttons, right between the Go To and Bookmark buttons, you will now find a wi-fi activation button, which is a toggle for enabling or disabling wi-fi. We will come back to the wi-fi discussion in a moment. Where you used to find the AC power connector on top is where the earphone jack now resides. The stereo microphone/line in jack is on the side of the unit on the right, if the unit is facing you. The micro USB connector is on top of the unit just as before.
Before I list and describe the new features, let me say that the Stream still works just as it does now. No worries about having to learn a totally new method of using the unit.
Wi-fi Capability – The Stream is now capable of connecting wirelessly to either your home network or any other wireless hot spot available. Connecting wirelessly enables you to download and install the latest updates to the Stream when they become available. As of this writing, owners of the new Stream cannot download NLS or any other book content. Humanware tells me that the unit is ready but the providers of this content are not. You will, however, be able to connect wirelessly and download your NLS key.
Recording In Stereo – The unit has been updated to enable stereo recordings. You can create high quality MP3 or MP4 files rather than just the .WAV files created by the original unit. You will no longer need to purchase the softpack from Humanware to convert those files or use your own audio editor.
Line in Recording – Using the same microphone jack, you can now record directly from another device and create high-quality recordings.
USB Charging – Instead of using an AC power adapter to charge the unit, you may now use an adapter which plugs into the micro USB connector on top of the unit. You can either plug the other end of the USB cable into a USB port on your computer to charge it, or you can use the provided adapter which plugs into an AC outlet and charge it that way. Charging takes five hours using the AC adapter and longer when you plug it into your computer.
Improved Transfer Speed – This new unit has the capability of improved file transfer speeds.
Acapela Voices – I was very pleased to hear the much-improved Acapela voices in this new unit. The voices being used are the highest quality Heather and Ryan voices. I believe this will greatly improve your listening enjoyment as you read text, HTML, Docx, BRF or ePub files with the Stream.
No More Soft Packs to Purchase – Everything is now in the updates.
Card Capacity – Supports up to 32GB SD cards.
Battery Life – 15 hours of playing time between charges.
Customizable Sleep Timer – Although you still have the choices of 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes for the Sleep Timer, you can now customize it and choose, for instance, 28 minutes.
Clock – A clock has been added to the updated unit. It does not presently have an option to set an alarm.
At present, this unit does not support Audible.com files, which is a major disappointment to me as I use Audible regularly. However, from an interview I heard on the Serotek Podcast Network (SPN), Humanware believes that this is only a short-term problem.
Stay tuned for the next issue of The White Cane when I will tell you about an interesting app for the iPhone which allows you to write in Braille.