It’s that time yet again! Time for another review! Continuing the braille product review series, this time we will be looking at the Orbit Writer, from a company called Orbit Research. The cost for this device is only $100. Honestly, it is EXTREMELY CHEAP for a braille keyboard!
The orbit writer is a braille keyboard that you can use to control your devices. The device is about the size of the iPhone 5 series, with about an inch left over. It does not provide a braille display, only the braille keyboard portion. It can connect up to six devices. Five of those would be bluetooth, and one of them would be USB. It also has a cursor pad to control the device. The battery in the unit lasts about three days on a single charge. It is recommended you charge the device when you get it by using either the computer, or a power cube if you have that around.
In the Envelope
Yes, you read correctly. This device is tiny, that it does not need an actual box. In the envelope, you will find the Orbit Writer itself, a Micro USB cable, and a lanyard. You can string the lanyard through the front of the unit in order to wear it while in use.
As mentioned, the Orbit Writer is a pretty simple device. We will start at the front of the unit, where you will find the whole to attach the lanyard. You would string it through this hole, and tie a knot on the string in order for it to stay secure. On the left side of the unit, you will find the micro USB port. The cable that is supplied is tiny, so it is recommended you invest in a longer cable, especially if you are out and about all the time. On the top of the device, you will find the braille keyboard. This keyboard, is a little different than the typical braille display keyboard. On a regular braille display keyboard, the keys are oval shaped, and they go up and down lengthwise. On this device, the keys are going side to side, and the ovals are cut in half. On the bottom part of the keyboard, you will find “Backspace, Space,” and “Enter.” The “Space bar” is much longer than the “Backspace” and “Enter” keys. Above this row, you will find the standard six braille keys. In the middle between “Dot 1” and “Dot 4,” you will find the round cursor cross. There are dots to indicate all four directions of the arrow pad, with the “select” button in the center. A lot of commands will require the use of the keyboard and arrow keys to change the unit’s settings. To perform any system adjustment on the device itself, you will need to hold down the specific key combination. Also, the device uses vibrations to provide feedback of all its prompts.
Powering On and Off
The Orbit Writer has NO “Power” button. Instead, you will need to use the cursor cross to turn it on and off. Remember, the cursor cross is in the middle of the braille keyboard. To power on and off, hold down the “Up” and “down” arrow buttons together until you feel a vibration. A short vibration indicates it is turned on. A long vibration indicates you turned it off. Once it is turned on, you are ready to use the device!
This section will explain some of the essential functions that you need to know to use the Orbit Writer and customize it to your liking.
Checking Battery Status
To check the battery status of the Orbit Writer, Hold down an “Up” arrow chord. (“Space” with “Up” arrow.) The unit will vibrate a certain number of times to indicate battery status. The times and their meanings follow:
- one short pulse: below 20%
- two short pulses: between 20 and 40%
- three short pulses: between 40 and 60%
- four short pulses: between 60 and 80%
- one long pulse: greater than 80%. It can be assumed it is fully charged.
This is a bit of a learning curbe, but can be done with patience. Note: when you connect it to the charger, the unit will emit a short vibration to indicate it is plugged in, and when it is unplugged, it will vibrate according to the battery level.
The Orbit Writer can turn itself off after a certain time if you are not using it. To customize this, press a “Left” arrow chord, (“Space” with “Left” arrow) to check what this setting is set to, and hold the same combination down for three seconds to change it. Here are the settings and their vibratory equivalents:
- one pulse: five minutes.
- two short pulses: ten minutes
- three short pulses: twenty minutes
- four short pulses: thirty minutes
When the time comes to power down, the unit will emit a long vibration.
Resetting The Unit
To reset the Orbit Writer, Press “Up” arrow and “Enter” keys together. The unit will not provide feedback, but it will turn itself off, and you must turn it on by holding “Up” and “Down” together again.
Forget All Devices
If you decide to, let’s say, sell your unit, or want to start from scratch connectionwise, hold down a “Down” arrow chord for three seconds until the unit emits a long vibration. It will forget all your devices you have connected to all bluetooth channels.
If you do not feel the Orbit Writer vibrating, you can adjust how hard it vibrates. To do that, press a “Right” arrow chord, (“Space” with “Up” arrow key) to check what it is set to, and hold down this combination for three seconds to change the intensity. The pulses go from one to three, with one pulse being the lowest setting, and three being the highest.
Using Orbit Writer with a Device
Now that we got the main settings you need out of the way, it is time to connect it to a device. Most of this process will come from your device such as a phone or computer to establish the connection. If the unit is connected successfully, it will emit two short vibrations, indicating it is ready to use.
Before you connect the device to bluetooth, you must make sure the channel is enabled on the Orbit Writer. Remember, there are five channels for bluetooth, and one for USB. To switch channels, you will press a “Left” arrow chord, with the dot number of the channel. For example, to activate channel 1, you would press a “Left” with “Dot 1” chord. Depending on the number of channel, replace “Dot 1″ with the dot number of the channel you want. If you want channels four through six, you replace the ‘Left” arrow with the “right” arrow with the same combination, except you will use dots “Four” through “Six.” Channel six is the USB. Once you have found the channel you want, you must hold down the key combination you pressed for the channel for three seconds to enable pairing on that specific channel. For example, I want to pair my iPhone to channel 1. I press “left” arrow chord with “Dot 1” to activate that channel. Now, I’ll hold down that same combination for three seconds. I am ready to pair my device! We have an article where we show you how to pair bluetooth braille displays to different devices, right this way! When searching for devices, you are looking for “Orbit Reader 1234,” (1234 is just an example of your last four digits of your writer’s serial number, located on the back of your unit. It says Orbit Reader, because it is using the same driver as the Orbit Reader series, which is a braille display that is also made by Orbit Research.
For USB, it is not as convoluted, evil, and college educated as connecting to bluetooth. All that needs to happen is switch to the USB channel by pressing a “Right” arrow with “Dot 6” chord, connect it to either Windows or Mac using a USB cable, and restart the screen reader! Simple as that!
Pro’s and Cons
This device for sure has its pro’s and cons this time around, COMPARED TO OTHER DEVICES WE HAVE REVIEWED HERE.
- DURABLE AND AFFORDABLE braille keyboard
- connects to six devices
- can fit in your pocket
- must be familiar with all the vibrations and their meanings, especially since a lot of the vibration patterns are used for multiple prompts.
- has complex command gestures to change its settings, which may affect users who only may have the use of one hand
Rating and Final Thoughts
I will give the Orbit Writer a 4 out of 5. While the unit is a good investment, and affordable at that, I think Orbit research could take a step forward to modernize this product a little more. For instance, rather than having vibration feedback and having to adjust the settings by using complex commands, why not have one channel enabled, and have a cross platform companion app? At that point, the writer can be connected, and people can use the app to set up other aspects of the unit, such as vibration intensity. The Apple Watch and even house appliances have this, so why can’t the Orbit Writer have it? Other than that, this unit is a good thing to have if you are looking for just a braille keyboard to use with your phone or other device, and you wish not to take a braille display. The sections covering the commands was just the very beginning. There are a lot more commands you can do on the Orbit Writer. You can find its user guide right here if you wish to check out more things you can do. Or, you can also contact us if you have any questions! In the meantime, happy typing!