New technologies ease everyday tasks

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Barbara Ruben

From easier-to-use keyboards and cell phones to innovative ways to read and listen to books, technology is making it easier to communicate and use the computer. Here are a few new products and services:

The MoreKeyboard has larger keys with large print designed to benefit those who are physically challenged, visually impaired or larger-framed. The easy-to-see, raised lettering enables those with vision problems to type more accurately.

MoreKeyboard keys are 25 percent larger than regular keys. Yet, the keyboard is 18 by 7 inches and takes up about the same amount of desk space as a regular keyboard.

Also important, the keyboard is designed to keep one’s wrists in a neutral position — important to avoid pain and reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. To assist with this, the keyboard has front and back legs with three different height adjustments.

The keyboard sells for $69.95. For more information, see www.morekeyboard.com.

Read to distant grandkids

One of the joys of grandparenting is reading books with grandchildren, but that’s difficult when you live far apart.

A new service called Readeo allows families to read together in real time over the Internet. Readeo combines video chat with children’s books to create BookChat, intended for picture-book age children and their families.

Users need a computer with broadband (high-speed) Internet access and a webcam (a small camera device that sits on your desk or computer monitor).

You don’t need to download software to use the site. Readeo integrates video chat (similar to services such as Skype) with digital children’s books so that those on both ends of the conversation can see each other as well as the book on their screens simultaneously.

Readeo has partnered with major publishers of children’s books to provide numerous titles online.

“I created Readeo to give my son more meaningful interaction with my parents when we can’t be together,” said Readeo’s founder Coby Neuenschwander. “We [also] use video chat, and while it’s much better than using the phone, it doesn’t create a shared interaction or the bonding that reading does.”

Members pay $9.95 a month, or $99.95 a year, for an unlimited subscription. A 14-day free trial is available. For more information, go to www.readeo.com or e-mail info@readeo.com.

Audio book subscriptions

For those who love listening to books or have vision problems that keep them from reading easily, another service offers a monthly subscription to audio books.

Simply Audiobooks bills itself as the Netflix of audiobooks. Members get unlimited rental access to a library of more than 14,000 books on CD in 33 categories — with no due dates, shipping costs or late fees.

“Libraries carry [audio books], but the selection is thin,” said Lee Chesworth, CEO of Simply Audiobooks. ”Audio books can cover more than 15 CDs, which makes them expensive to purchase.

“In contrast, Simply Audiobooks has multiple copies of each book in stock so the wait to grab the new thriller you’ve been dying to enjoy is short,” he said.

Categories included in the Simply Audiobooks selection span popular genres from biographies to mysteries, romance to horror and science fiction to religion. Books can also be downloaded from Simply Audiobooks’ website.

CD memberships are available for a monthly fee of $26.98 or annual pricing at $21 a month. Books can be downloaded from the website starting at $14.95 a month for one book. To sign up for a free 15-day trial, visit .

Easier-to-use cell phones

Phone manufacturers are also working to make cell phones easier to use. The company Clarity makes amplified cell and landline phones for those with hearing loss.

Its ClarityLife C900 mobile phone, for example, works on several cellular networks, including AT&T and T-Mobile. The phone includes 20 decibel amplification, a one-touch emergency help button, four large buttons for easy navigation, a large backlit display, and oversized text for easier reading.

The phone costs $99.95. Clarity offers a free service in which a company representative can remotely modify the phone, setting up volume and speed dial settings for customers. For more information, see http://clarityproducts.com or call 1-800-426-3738.

Pantech’s Breeze II phone also has large buttons to make dialing easier. It includes three-easy-to-program buttons for one-touch calling to the three people called the most, as well as large text on the screen.

Phone users can also speak commands, from finding a contact to making the call. The 3G phone is equipped for texting, e-mailing or browsing the Web.

Service is available through AT&T. The phone costs $229 without a contract, but is as low as $29.99 with a two-year contract and rebate. For more information, visit www.pantechusa.com/phones/breeze_ii or call 1-800-962-8622.