(Note: This article appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of the BCAB Newsletter.)
(Author’s Note: I would like to thank Migraf Technologies for loaning me a NavTrace one unit for review purposes, and Steve Nutt of Computer Room Services for his product support.)
What is NavTraceOne?
NavTraceOne is a hand-held GPS system with a host of other built-in features that allow blind and partially sighted people to ascertain their surroundings and plot routes using high quality text-to-speech (TTS) and voice controlled input.
NavTraceOne measures 117 by 78 by 24mm, and weighs 200g. It comes with:
- ARM Cortex A7 1Ghz Dual Core Processor
- 1GB of DDR3 RAM
- 8GB of NAND storage
- 32GB of internal storage (up to 64GB)
- 2700mAh Li-poly battery, fast charging
- Precision GPS / GLONASS receiver, GALILEO ready
- GPS tracking time: up to 14 hours
- State of the art motion processor chip with built-in accelerometer, gyroscope and compass
- Built-in high-sensitivity microphone and speaker
- Stereo headphone and microphone jack included
- Micro USB 2.0 High Speed port for PC communication.
Its packaging contains a NavTraceOne unit, micro to standard USB cable and earbuds. Documentation can be downloaded in PDF or Word formats from the Migraf Technologies website.
With NavTraceOne facing you, the unit is rectangle in shape with several tactile, easy-to-distinguish buttons on its front face. On the left-hand side are up, down, left and right arrow keys with the ‘Accept’ button in the middle of the cross. Use the left and right arrow keys to move between menu items. Use the up and down arrow keys to increase and decrease the main volume of the device. Use the Back button to step back one level at a time, or press and hold the Back button to jump back to the main menu.
On the right side of the front face, are four tactile, easy-to-distinguish buttons. From the top, these are Favourites, Help, Back, and Voice. This last button is larger than the others. A small, slightly recessed power button is above the Favourites button. Press this until you feel vibration to start the unit, or press until you feel it vibrate again to turn off the unit.
On the top edge of the unit is a 3.5mm headphone jack, metal ring to attach the device to a lanyard or belt clip, and the micro USB port for charging the unit or connecting it to a PC for file transfer or firmware update.
Each side of the unit has a slightly bevelled edge with rubber texture to enable you to grip the unit comfortably in your hands.
To cycle between menu items, use the left or right arrow keys:
- Connect To PC
- Alarm Clock
- Book Reader
- Audio Player
- Voice Recorder
- Survey Route
- Look Around
- Where Am I
Navigating with this unit can be done either through using its menus as described above, or by voice control, issuing simple commands. When you use NavTraceOne for the first time, it is probably fair to say that it can take several minutes to acquire a GPS fix. Thereafter, a signal is located more quickly, but best done outdoors. Use the ‘Where Am I’ feature to ascertain your location by pressing the dedicated button from its main menu, or press and hold the microphone button at the bottom right, and ask: ‘Where Am I’?
NavTraceOne is fitted with excellent quality Ivona text-to-speech male and female voices. You can customise voice speed and other parameters by going into Settings on the main menu.
This device will enable you to add favourite locations by pressing the Favourites button. You can navigate to a previously selected point, to an address, to a point of interest (POI), or to a postcode. You can look around by buildings, by points of interest, and by postcodes. You may also survey a route by selecting a starting point from previously selected points, current location, from map, from points of interest, and from postcodes.
Other NavTraceOne features
A handy voice recorder feature lets you take notes, and play back recordings you have already made.
The audio player allows you to play MP3 media files. Files must be stored in a directory or folder.
The Book Reader allows you to listen to MP3 books and speed them up. At the time of writing, however, DAISY content cannot be played, though I am told the ability to do so is imminent.
A calendar which allows you to store appointments is quite versatile as they may be recurring by day, week, month, and year. Similarly, an alarm clock function can be set for reminders.
The compass feature lets you obtain a direction, and may be recalibrated in the Settings menu.
Since NavTraceOne contains internal storage, you may connect the device to your PC as an external drive to transfer files or update the firmware. Simply use the supplied USB cable to connect NavTraceOne to your computer and choose from Copy Files, or Update.
Pros and Cons
Polish company Migraf Technologies tells me that it plans to release firmware in the future that will allow you to connect to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, support DAISY files, and improve general functionality. I appreciate the company released NavTraceOne earlier than they might have to compete with the release of the new HumanWare Victor Reader Trek. However, it feels quite lightweight without these important features.
On the positive side, the Ivona TTS on NavTraceOne is a refreshing change. It is clear and comfortable to listen to, though the speaker on the unit is incredibly tinny, and lacks any bass whatsoever.
All buttons and voice control on the NavTraceOne is simplistic. You can use the menu to physically ascertain the battery life of the device, for example, or check the number of satellites, in Settings. But you can equally ask for this information by using your voice to say: ‘battery level’, or ‘satellite information’. The microphone is quite responsive, as are button presses when navigating that way.
If you want a nice little calendar, alarm clock and voice recorder, these are very useful additions to this particular system. But much needs to be done to the book reader and audio player to make it a viable contender in its own right.
Conclusion and Pricing
NavTraceOne is sold in the UK by Steve Nutt of Computer Room Services, 01438 742286,
It costs £499, so is a considered purchase if you are looking for a stand-alone GPS, audio player and book reader all-in-one system. (Editor’s note: current price as of October 2019 – £598.80 Including VAT, £499.00 Excluding VAT)
In conclusion, bear in mind that this is not quite the finished product at present (as of time of writing in Spring 2018). I do have some concerns that two or three important features are currently not active which would otherwise make this a very real contender.