#blog by Shreya Barua
While there are many assistive technologies out there, braille keyboards have been revolutionary in making phones and computers more accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired. If you've been searching for the best braille keyboard, you may wonder how the Hable One compares to the Orbit Writer. We're going to give you a detailed breakdown of how the two keyboards differ from each other and the factors that set them apart so that you can decide which braille keyboard meets your needs.
At a Glance: The Hable One and the Orbit Write
The Hable One is a braille keyboard that can be paired with any smartphone using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It is purposely designed for a smartphone and therefore enjoys a more compact design, sized similar to an iPhone 6. The Hable One enables people to always be in control while using their smartphones in any situation. The keyboard works like a physical version of the on-screen braille input but with multiple added functionalities and benefits.
The Orbit Writer, developed by Orbit Research, is a wireless keyboard that functions like a Perkins Brailler and connects to your smartphone and computer. The keyboard uses the 8 Braille input key entry methods to allow users to control their phone/computer with various key combinations. The product does compromise on build quality to keep costs low in order to fulfil their objective of making low-cost braille available to all.
Usability should be one of your key considerations while purchasing an external braille keyboard. Factors like typing speed, availability, and ergonomics play a crucial role in determining the overall experience of the keyboard itself.
The Hable One uses the 6-point braille reading system and is compatible with contracted and uncontracted braille (also known as grade 1 and grade 2 braille). You will be able to use this keyboard regardless of the language that you use braille in. The Hable One doesn't require users to lift their fingers while typing, allowing trained users to reach incredible speeds, often faster than that achievable through QWERTY. However, as the Hable One requires you to type towards you, unlike other keyboards, it might need some getting used to.
The Orbit Writer functions similar to a Perkins Brailler, which can be limiting in terms of usability. It is a small device designed for portability and was not built for long time usage. Typing on the Orbit Writer for longer periods can be slightly uncomfortable and can feel cramped. We'll explore this in further detail when we discuss the agility of the keyboard's design.
Typing Experience and Text Editing
Text editing is a big part of the overall typing experience, and the differences become quite noticeable if you compare external keyboards to ones that use speech-to-text technology.
The Hable One uses a single interaction for all VoiceOver or TalkBack gestures. The keyboard does use some newer interactions for navigation which might be a bit of a learning curve for users who are more familiar with other braille devices. However, text editing using the Hable One is simple to learn, easy to remember, and fast to work with. The keyboard automatically enters into editing mode when you open a file, and simple interactions are sufficient to perform basic text-editing functions like copy, paste, and cut. In addition to this, a combination of keys can be used for selecting a letter, word or an entire line.
The Orbit Writer uses small arrow keys in the middle of the keyboard for most text editing functions. To speed up the process, users also need to hold a combination of other keys whilst using the arrow keys. Moreover, you will need to manually enter the editing mode after opening a file while using the Orbit Writer. However, this keyboard allows you to take notes and save them without the need to connect to a device – a feature that is yet to be incorporated within the Hable One.
Comfort and Control
We use our smartphones for about 3 hours every day on average. That is approximately 76,000 hours in a lifetime, which means that during your life, you use your smartphone for nearly 9 years non-stop. So, saying that comfort and control are integral to the smartphone experience is an understatement.
The Hable One is designed for long and intense usage. A vast amount of focus has been given to improving the ergonomics of the device during the development process through extensive iterations. The Hable One fits right into your palms, and your fingers automatically come to rest on the large, indented buttons. Hable believes that comfort also means that things simply need to work. Therefore, the Hable One has a battery life of two weeks when used intensively. The materials used in the keyboard provide a reliable grip, ensuring that your fingers don't slip off the buttons – inspiring a feeling of being in complete control of your phone.
The Orbit Writer is built to realize a low-price possibility of utilizing braille. Due to the compact nature of its design, using this keyboard for long periods of time might pose a problem for users who might experience their fingers feeling cramped. The arrows buttons in the middle of the device are by no means ergonomic, instead, several of the navigation combinations might require you to manoeuvre your fingers in unnatural ways. If used intensively, you can expect the Orbit Writer to have a battery life of about 3 days.
Agility and Design
Braille keyboards work as an alternative input method for people who are blind and visually impaired. This makes it crucial for such devices to be agile and have exceptional design to be able to cater to the needs of their users.
The Hable One is the first braille keyboard that can be used anywhere and anytime. Since the keyboard is handheld, you don't require a desk, stand, or tabletop to be able to use it. This degree of portability is a huge advantage for users who are always on the go. Whether you're on a walk, travelling to work on public transport or at a party, the Hable One gives you full control of your phone at all times. The keyboard's small design allows it to fit in your pocket or purse easily so that you never lose access to your smartphone ever again.
The Orbit Writer has a very slender design, which allows you to carry it easily inside your bag. However, due to the typing limitation, similar to the ones you would experience while using a Perkins Brailler, you might need a stand or desk to place your device. In addition to this, the keyboard sometimes requires users to navigate directly on their smartphone before they start typing using the Orbit Writer. While the device allows for mobility, it falls short of providing a seamless user experience.
Integration With Apple VoiceOVer and Android TalkBack
VoiceOver and TalkBack control are essential features for people who are looking for solutions that allow them to fully access their phone. Typing functionality is important, but having to continuously hold a device takes away from the ease of experience and defeats the purpose of using an external keyboard.
The Hable One allows you to have full access to your smartphone through VoiceOver and TalkBack. The keyboard automatically detects the right stance (iOS/Android) when connected to your device. Hable is a young company, and understandably, there might be a few teething issues with the software at the start. However, software updates will be carried out remotely to make sure your experience remains uninterrupted. The Hable One's interactions are faster than those offered by current solutions in the market. All VoiceOver gestures geared towards movement follow one simple guideline. Moreover, users receive a comprehensive start-guide with their keyboard, which provides detailed information on navigating with the Hable One, ensuring that they can start using VoiceOver or TalkBack within no time.
The Orbit Writer uses similar navigation as other braille computers, augmented by the navigation arrows in the middle of the device. The movement gestures are not as intuitive as one might want them to be. Moreover, new users who aren't already familiar with navigation using other Perkins brailler machines will take a little time to get comfortable with the Orbit Writer. While this keyboard supports customizable hotkeys, the interactions are not designed to be easily memorable or to be used quickly, instead, it is based on the very old concept of the first braille computers.
When you are choosing a new companion for your smartphone, you want it to last for a while. In order for this to be possible, the product needs to be durable and made of high-quality materials that will be able to keep up with the wear and tear of your everyday life.
The Hable One is co-developed by a company that produces products that match the quality level of Philips. This means that the materials used for the Hable One are of high quality to ensure that this keyboard will last you a long time. In addition to this, the keyboard uses the latest Bluetooth Low Energy module to ensure that you never lose connectivity and are always in control of your smartphone. The production and assembly of the Hable One are carried out in the Netherlands, making it easy to ensure that each and every keyboard meets the highest standard of quality. As a company, Hable believes that everyone is responsible for the future of our world, and for this reason, the Hable One is built using recycled plastics without compromising on the quality of the product.
The Orbit Writer is produced with the goal of keeping the price as low as possible. This inevitably translates to the quality of the materials used in the production of the keyboard. As a result of this, keys can often feel wobbly, and the battery life is considerably short. Orbit has done exceedingly well in making braille computers accessible at a low price point, but that doesn't come without its own shortcomings and compromises. The Orbit Writer is definitely a viable low-cost option for typing in braille on your smartphone however, the overall quality of the materials and interactions might leave you unimpressed. The cost-cutting measure also goes on to affect the device's connectivity as several users report problems with interruptions when connecting via Bluetooth.
Braille computers tend to be expensive due to the technology they leverage. A variation in prices often has a direct correlation to product quality, as we've seen before. It all comes down to choosing a keyboard that fulfils your needs but also fits within your budget.
The Hable One costs 239 pounds (in the UK) or 249 euros in the Netherlands and Belgium. The pricing is steep and is almost 2.5 times that of the Orbit Writer. It is mostly due to a cumulation of the overall production costs and high-end materials produced in the Netherlands. This keyboard might cause a dent in your pocket, but the Hable one makes up for it by aiming to offer the best solution to its audience at all times through its unique and custom-made software.
(Make sure to always check if you are eligible for certain funds. In most countries, you have the opportunity to get the Hable One via a reimbursement.)
The Orbit Writer costs 99 US dollars and is also available in India for close to 5,000 Indian rupees. In order to get a hold of this keyboard in other parts of the world, you might incur additional shipping costs and customs duty. That said, The Orbit Writer is the cheapest device in its segment. The design is centred around producing a cost-effective braille device and it is successful in doing so.
So, which one is better?
When deciding which of the two devices you should purchase, it all comes down to choosing the braille keyboard that will fulfil your needs, fit into your life, and always leave you feeling that you are in complete control – quite simply, the keyboard that is the one.
The Hable One is the keyboard for you if you are:
hoping for seamless connectivity with your device
looking for a solution that allows you to operate your smartphone anywhere
excited by a bit of a learning curve, and okay with a little splurging
On the other hand, the Orbit Writer might suit you better if you are:
comfortable with Perkins Brailler devices
happy with a device that allows for short typing
on a tighter budget, and not looking to use the product for longer periods of time
Still not sure? Want more information? You can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.