Author Topic: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available  (Read 4262 times)

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Offline critor

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In a previous news, we announced the release of the new TI-84 Plus Orion for 2013's back to school, a TI-84 calculator enhanced with a voice module. This module is yet another example following the 40 years of commitment from Texas Instruments for the blind or visually impaired students through the production of many talking calculators or braille display, through various partners. Here, a collaboration of Texas Instruments, Orbit Research, and APH(American Printing House for the Blind).


Adriweb had even brought you back some pictures of the sample that he had the pleasure to hold in his hand at the 2013 T3 conference:


It is a TI-84 calculator topped with a voice module. The latter allows the reading of all the text on the screen and an audio description of function variations when drawing graphs.
The module requires the TI-84 Plus to have a specific OS, here the 2.55/ORh, and uses the top connectors : mini-jack and mini USB.


Today, the TI-84 Plus Orion is finally available on the APH's online store, and it is an opportunity for us to discover its price... 599$ . . . :o

The TI-84 Plus Orion therefore is five times as expensive as a normal TI-84 Plus.
The hardware used in the module, even produced in small quantities, shouldn't probably cost $500. But we have to remind you that, behind all this was a big R&D effor, from probably a small group of very skilled people.

Let's try to understand more by discovering what's in the box:
  • 1 TI-84 Plus secured with the voice module Orion
  • 1 dedicated cover "Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator"
  • 1 USB key APH
  • 1 pair of 3.5mm headphones
  • 1 standard USB-A male cable <-> mini-B male
  • 1 electrical standard USB A female adapter (North America format)
  • 4 AAA batteries
  • 1 quick start guide paper format
  • 1 quick start guide in braille
I have no idea of the cost to print in braille a guidebook, but it probably starts to justify the price wisely.

The TI-84 Plus Orion therefore comes with a dedicated cover higher than the TI-84 Plus usual covers, allowing it to cover both the calculator and the voice module. Unlike the prototype that was presented to us by Adriweb, here the writings on the keys of the module are printed correctly. We discover that it is possible to pause the module right while a message is spoken, to adjust the volume or to mute the sound.

The voice module has a separate power different than the TI-84 Plus, thanks to its own rechargeable battery.

On top, four connectors are visible:
  • 1 jack 3.5mm
  • 1 USB mini-B port
  • 1 USB micro-A / B port
  • 1 2.5mm stereo mini-jack port
The 3.5mm jack module allows to use headphones instead of the internal speakers, allowing easier classroom use by not disturbing other students.
The mini-jack 2.5mm module is probably a simple extension of that of the TI-84 Plus and therefore is used to transfer data between calculators.

Now remains the mystery of the two USB ports ...
According to the documentation listed here, the USB mini-B connector of the module (which is different of the USB mini-A/B of the calculator) is used to charge the battery module. We wonder whether it is still possible to use this port to communicate with another calculator or computer, or if you must remove the module for that (which shouldn't be possible since the final production units are screwed to the calculator). Because the presence of two USB ports could be justified by features that are split:
  • USB mini-B: charging module
  • Micro USB A/B: communication with the computer or other calculators
If this hypothesis were correct, it would cause huge troubles because we would require different micro USB cables from our usual mini-USB plugs:
  • 1 standard cable USB A male <-> micro B male for communication with a computer
  • 1 micro USB cable A / B male <-> mini B/A Male to communicate with a normal TI-84 Plus
  • 1 micro USB A male <-> micro B male for communication between two TI-84 Plus Orion
However, not even a micro USB cable oddly comes with the calculator.
It is also possible that the micro USB plug is specific to that particular module and allows to update the firmware, while the mini USB plug is connected to the TI-84 Plus.

The guidebookss of the TI-84 Plus Orion which can be viewed below do not seem to answer this question, because addressing communication capabilities very quickly, and sometimes with awkwardly passages taken without adaptation of the TI-84 Plus normal calculator guidebooks, and would require here a dismantling of the module to apply those parts. Lets skip this, we will solve this mystery in the future.

We discover inside the guidebook additional features that ultimately justify the use of a specific system:
  • a sound announcing keypresses
  • the possibility of having the text read:
    • of the entire screen
    • of the current line
    • just before the cursor
    • just after the cursor
  • the ability to customize the behavior of the voice module directly from the menus inside the calculator software
  • the existence of a kind of on-line help to get used to the TI-84 Plus keys and their functions: on this mode, pressing a key triggers its voice without affecting the screen, followed by a short description of what the key allows to access
Want to see what happens and to (finally!) hear the TI-84 Plus speaking? Then watch this video ! :



Downloads:
Quick printable starting guide for the TI-84 Plus Orion
Online TI-84 Plus Orion guidebook

Crossposted from:
http://tiplanet.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=12770&lang=en

Source:
http://shop.aph.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product_Orion%20TI-84%20Plus%20Talking%20Graphing%20Calculator_1-07340-00P_10001_11051
via http://www.cemetech.net/?p=207138#207138
« Last Edit: July 30, 2013, 06:59:33 am by critor »
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Offline DJ Omnimaga

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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2013, 08:32:55 pm »
The sad thing is that there might be blind people who simply can't afford such tool. Of course some visually impaired people receive extra financial aid from government since they can't work at most places, but with the cost of life, will they want to pay $599.99 in addition to their tuition fees and stuff?

On the other hand, this calculator is interesting. I wonder what does it hide, hardware wise? I'm betting it uses the same 15 MHz Z80 processor, since they didn't even bother switching with the CSE, but maybe it has a sound card that could be hacked via ASM tools to produce video game music or speech for math tools?
« Last Edit: July 29, 2013, 08:33:08 pm by DJ Omnimaga »
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Offline critor

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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2013, 08:34:24 pm »
Yes, I've been wondering if asm programs could control the speech module someway.
This would be pretty interesting ;)
« Last Edit: July 29, 2013, 08:34:45 pm by critor »
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Offline Xeda112358

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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2013, 08:40:43 pm »
So... I am assuming headphones are used during tests? TI does tend to be worried about that kind of thing :P

This is pretty cool, though :) The speech is actually pretty decent, I think.

EDIT: Also, I think that if I ever go blind, I could still use my calculator just fine >.> I do the math in my head, anyways, and I otherwise know where everything is.

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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2013, 08:49:28 pm »
Yeah headphones might be a concern if someone writes a counterfeit copy of an existing program allowed at a test that actually tells the test answers with headphones plugged in or something. However, no headphone support might be annoying for other students who constantly hears a calc talking.
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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2013, 09:16:07 pm »
Yeah headphones might be a concern if someone writes a counterfeit copy of an existing program allowed at a test that actually tells the test answers with headphones plugged in or something. However, no headphone support might be annoying for other students who constantly hears a calc talking.
Oh, I hadn't even thought of that o.o I was more thinking about during math tests, without headphones your calculator would be telling all of your answers out loud.

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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2013, 09:26:36 pm »
Haha that would be a problem too XD.
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Offline Joshuasm32

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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2013, 10:20:33 pm »
WHAT THE WHAT?!    :w00t:  Sounds for games with no hassle...    :hyper:
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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2013, 10:23:13 pm »
WHAT THE WHAT?!    :w00t:  Sounds for games with no hassle...    :hyper:
Well, we don't know yet how easy it is to communicate with the Orion component through assembly. As well, I would imagine that much of the sound is preloaded onto the Orion device, but it might be neat if you can pass text to it and it reads it.

Also, $600.

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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2013, 10:54:13 pm »
That really is a fantastic tool. I really have to applaud all the parties involved in its development. In regards to the price tag, I'd assume most students that need it will be able to get it discounted or free.

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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2013, 11:51:40 pm »
Should have the capability built in!
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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2013, 11:58:49 pm »
It probably has a microcontroller in the unit doing all the sound handling, and simply passes the OS output from the calculator using a simple text protocol. I doubt the calculator does ANY of the sound processing.

Text to Speech is pretty easy when all the variables are either single letters or fixed words. "String One" for example, would be the clip "String" and share the word "One" with 1. GDB1 is even easier, sharing "G", "D", "B" and "1". By simply sending the token, the calculator tells the Plugin-Thing to say these fairly long, preprogrammed phrases. It would be easier, faster, and simpler than the alternative of this just being a fancy sound card.

Also, I bet it uses the USB for communication, with a standard hub. Since the extra is removable, communication between calculators isn't really an issue, so I doubt the micro-usb port supports it at all. At the very least, it doesn't need to support it.

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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2013, 04:58:16 am »
How could I forget this? Remember, it leaked while it was still in-dev >.>
So yeah, that is pretty awesome, i wonder ho the asm abilities are for it :D

Also, I wonder if it'll work on a SE with modded OS.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2013, 04:59:36 am by Sorunome »

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Offline critor

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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2013, 06:23:57 am »
Also, I wonder if it'll work on a SE with modded OS.

Yes, we need to dump the OS and install it with the module on a TI-84+SE.

We also need to check if it would partially work with standard TI OSes or not at all.
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Re: TI-84 Plus Orion, the Talking Graphing Calculator now available
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2013, 08:26:44 am »
Looks like a great extension of the calc, though the price tag seems a bit high (then again, I don't know production costs / agreements for people who need it). I'm interested to see what the community can achieve with this thing if testing ever happens.
We also need to check if it would partially work with standard TI OSes or not at all.
What could be so special about the new OS?

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