Well, since I just spent $9.95 to have some wi-fi access for 24 hours here at my hotel in Orlando, I figured I'd get my money's worth and do a little out of town update. I'm so excited to be blogging on the road. I'm a dork like that.
So I'm seriously having the Best! Time! Ever!!! at this convention. For those of you who haven't been paying attention, I am at the annual convention for the National Federation of the Blind being held in Orlando, Florida. We're at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort which I can't possibly rave about enough. This is a great convention location. The rooms are nice, the staff is friendly and the place is easy to navigate from a blindness perspective despite being huge. It's pretty spread out, but if you think about it as a bunch of smaller sections connected by simple routes it's really a piece of cake to get around. I have spent less time being lost at this convention than the previous 2 that I've been to and I haven't actually been lost since the second day I was here. It's a good thing I like it here, because after next year's convention in Dallas, we will be coming back to this hotel for 6 years in a row. At least I will know where I'm going from now on.
As usual, I'm meeting lots of interesting people and finding plenty of fun things to do. I've combed the exhibit hall thoroughly and wasted a reasonable amount of money on nifty gadgets. I got a couple of new canes, a bar code scanner for sorting through my groceries and lots of little uninteresting odds and ends. I've entered a ton of raffles and can't remember what most of them are for and sold lots of raffle tickets of my own to help my Affiliate raise money for the NFB Imagination Fund.
On Tuesday, I attended the business meeting for the Sports and Rec Division of the NFB where I gave a presentation about the Visually impaired rowing program at the boathouse and discussed adaptive techniques for rowing with blindness. The presentation went really well and I received numerous questions and positive comments. After all the presentations, we had elections and much to my surprise, I was nominated and elected to the board for the Division. So, now I am Vice President of the OKC Chapter, Secretary for NFB of Oklahoma and a Board Member for the Sports and Rec Division of the NFB on the national level. I keep getting dragged deeper and deeper into this thing. It's both hilarious and scary, but I do strongly believe in the fundamental philosophy of the NFB so at least I'm getting dragged into stuff I really care about.
Another highlight of the week has been the chance to drive the blind driver challenge vehicle simulator. This simulator gives participants a chance to try out the non visual interface created by Virginia Tech University and the NFB which allows a blind person to drive a car. The prototype car was demonstrated at Daytona International Speedway in January before the Rolex 24. It's amazing, groundbreaking technology and even though it was just a simulator, it felt awesome to drive. I did pretty well too. The chick at my station said she only saw 1 person get farther along the course before wrecking. I was on the track 71.8 percent of the time. While there were people with higher percentages, they didn't get as far as I did. That's pretty good considering I just sat down, got a 2 minute tutorial on How to interact with the interface and then took off with no practice time. The parts of the interface that are on the simulator include gloves that vibrate along the knuckles. The goal is to have no vibration. If you get off course, the gloves vibrate starting at the ring fingers and go out toward the pinkies. so a vibration on the right index finger would indicate a slight turn to the right while a vibration all the way to the right pinky would indicate a sharp right turn. The seat contains vibrating pads called the speed strip. Vibrations in the butt part of the seat let you know to speed up while vibrations in the back panel alert you to slow down. It's all just really freakin cool. Of course the actual car that was driven at Daytona gives even more feedback to assist the blind driver in making decisions while driving the car but I was blown away by the little sample I got to experience. After driving the simulator, everyone has to answer some survey questions that are being used for research on the project. They are now trying to determine if there are any characteristics that make certain people perform better with the non visual interface. They asked if I had ever held a drivers license and whether I played video games. I of course have experience with both and have always believed that these two factors would give me an advantage with the non visual interface. So, of course I found it interesting that the researchers were looking into that very thing.
I've got a lot more to talk about, but I need to get to bed and I don't want to bother my roommate with all my typing noise. I'll be back with more details when I get home. We're invading Harry Potter World on Saturday. I can't wait.