Hi everyone,

We've received our new TI-84 Plus Orion talking calculator. It's coming with OS 2.55/ORk, and one of the first things we tried was to install it on other TI-84 Plus. It works perfectly, even on TI-84 Plus Silver Edition, revealing us a correctly displayed new model name, "Orion TI-84 Plus Silver Edition" instead of "Orion TI-84 Plus", an hypothetic future upgrade.

But of course without the talking module the OS brings nothing more than 2.55MP, and so that's why we're going to test it on a real TI-84 Plus Orion for you.

Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Unpacking
  • Design
  • Features
  • Connectivity
  • Compatibility with peripherals
  • Misc

We've already talked about the Orion TI-84+ in several previous news when it's been seen at the 2013 T3 conference and when it got released, but here's an overview :
The TI-84 Plus Orion is actually a standard TI-84 Plus, installed with a modified OS 2.55 MP: In addition to standard functions, it communicates with the module that is physically attached (screwed) to the top of the calculator.
The Orion 84+ is destined to be used by blind or visually impaired people as it opens the doors to graphing calculators: speech synthesis for each key pressed, the ability to "read" what is displayed on the screen, "hearing" the graphs (see below for details), to vibrate in some cases (haptic feedback) ...
We had the chance to get a unit (thank you TI !), and here are some more info now Smile

The calculator comes in its package alongside many accessories / additional content (or at least the one we received, we're not sure if it's a prototype ?) :
  • high quality stereo headphones for private use
  • AC adapter / charger
  • guidebook
  • leaflet showing other enhanced TI products for blind/visually impaired people (notably the Orion TI-36X, which we find very well done)
  • (x*sin(x)) graphic, printed and embossed in Braille

The Orion TI-84 Plus calculator consists of a TI-84 Plus on top of which resides the actual Orion module. A dedicated, longer than usual slidecase (with APH / Orbit Research logos) protects both the calculator and its module, quite useful against unwanted keypresses when moving etc.

The 84 Plus Orion weighs of course a bit heavier than a standard 84
Dimensions : 9.3"x3.5"x1", or 23.62x8.9x2.54 cm.

Here are the main features we've explored so far ::

First, the module annouces (rate/voice changeable), in English of course, the keys you press. But in context, it is not necessarily a simple reading of the current key, it can detect that you are writing a number and will thus read the number itself and not the last digit typed (it also applies to the results of a calculation). If you are in the list editor or the table of a graph, it reads the values ​​according to the coordinates of the current point, etc.. It is also able to read the words that are written or returned by a program. Iit is actually a real text-to-speech ("sonograph technology") that does the job Smile
And the reading speed, or rather we should say the ability to quickly speak the keys pressed is impressive, there is no delay (it would have been annoying...).

We can't forget to talk about graphs Wink :
When the calculator is in the process of graphing something like a function, the user knows it thanks to the audio feedback based on the ends of the curve (or at least, it's a easily reconizable noise that happens to fit what we was pltting at that time), and when the tracing is completed, the module describes the graph with a sound whose pitch fluctuates according to the variations of the curve (and a particular sound is produced when the x-axis is crossed). It's very well done !
You can see/hear it in the video below.

Let's also note that the module reminds the user that the calculator will turn off soon (APD - automatic power down annoucement)

We almost forgot : the module does also make the whole calculator vibrate, under certain conditions.

We still couldn't explore all the Orion features, but it's currently a very powerful and versatile module Smile

The module itself has several keys (sound level, preferences , repeat, "Manual" screen reading, etc.), which make it even more useful.

The mini-USB port on the voice module allows recharging, as well as updating its firmware when connected to a computer. It is apparently not possible to exchange data with other calculators or a computer using this port, suggesting that the module is presenting itself to the calculator as an USB device and does not include an USB hub. To exchange data, you will therefore need to use the 2.5mm mini-jack cable (not provided), or remove the voice module (although this is not supposed to be done), so in both cases, it isn't very convenient...

The micro-USB port on the voice module, not mentioned in the documentation is still a mystery. The computer doesn't detect the module when this port is used. However, the website states it's in order to connect other devices, but with no further details (or maybe it's to connect the Braille printer that's talked about ? ). Anyway, no micro-USB adapter or cable is included.

And as mentioned above, the 3.5mm jack port is used to connect stereo headphones or speakers.

Compatibility with peripherals
We now propose you to test the compatibility of the TI-84 Plus Orion equipped with its module with some devices or accessories. As implied above, unless you remove the voice module (operation not originally planned as the module is screwed), you can exclude a priori all devices requiring the USB. But we still have some choice .

Let's start for example with the TI-Kickstand :

As you can see, this is a special cover/slidecase designed for the TI-84 Plus case types (which therefore also includes the TI-89 Titanium and TI-83 USB Black Plus.fr 2013), putting them in an inclined position, which is very comfortable. Normally two inclinations are possible thanks to a flap which is housed in one of two parallel slots in the back of the calc. Here, the voice module completely blocks the access to the top slot (because it's used to receive the screws attaching the module), but not the bottom slot, which allows to use the TI-kickstand, but only in its maximum angle position.

As a device which doesn't require the USB and uses the mini-Jack, we've got the TI-Keyboard. Are such key presses going to be handled the same way by the system and announced by the voice module like the calculator keys? Discover it in the video Wink

In summary : the keyboard itself works very well through the 2.5mm jack port on the module, which is a good thing, but the module reactions are strange and depend upon what we are doing. The main (maybe unintended) advantage is that the keyboard typed keys aren't annonced, which would have made a great commotion if that was the case. But some texts tend to be read twice (two times in a row) by the module. We're going to report the bug and hope for an update

- The calculator is on sale for $599 from its official website: http://shop.aph.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product_Orion%20TI-84%20Plus%20Talking%20Graphing%20Calculator_1-07340-00P_10001_11051
Too bad it's so expensive : ( But hey, for the visually impaired , we guess it's a good investment Smile

- For the ones interested, it's possible to follow the evolution of the module versions :

- Full online documentation :

- A small downside that we noticed during my few experiments: it happens, probably very rarely in standard use, though : the module gets "out of sync" and thus the connection with the calculator is lost. It does not crash the calculator nor module, but it will no longer work with the calculator as expected. We simply have to reset it, then (keystroke calculator + restart) to make them function again Smile we think some ASM programs can cause this more easily / often than during standard use.
But after all, these programs are not "made ​​for" Orion and the frequency of use of such programs for a typical Orion user is probably zero.

- The calculator has a modified 2.55MP operating system (the changes adding the code dealing with the voice module), dubbed 2.55/ORk as already mentionned in a previous news. We also discover that it's including the old Boot Code 1.02. But nothing unusual a priori , since it's obviously an old hardware revision, P, while 1.03 Boot Code was introduced with hardware revision Q.

Co-writen by Adriweb and Critor

Hi everyone,

Regarding the previous post... maybe you thought if you're a programmer especially, about the not-so-normal possible uses of the Orion module, for example user-controlled sound output ? Wink

Of course, for now, one can think about making it read numbers and words, which is not very difficult and it was shown in the video on the news linked above.

But .... already on the traditional TI-83+ and 84+, some programmers have released solutions from relatively simple to a bit more complex but realistic in order to get music from the calculator via the 2.5mm Jack I/O port.

Anyway, there has always been some joy for the programmers to tinker with that, maybe especially for the ones more hackers than others, for offering a new dimension to their creations, and in general for those who want to impress their friends with music coming out of their calculator Wink

Here is a music whose name I won't probably need to state, which I was able to "compose" when thinking about the fact that the calculator has the ability to "read graphs" :

You'll have to excuse me for a few false notes, I certainly heard them too, but ... I can't actually do better, or at least with this method. Indeed, the height of the sound depends directly on the y-coordinate of the pixel, but the change is not by semitone as in our traditional tempered scales ; in fact, the increase in pitch of the sounds are done by a few  [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comma_(music)]commas[/url] and therefore we don't always get on a well-defined note ... I put the closest ones, which may bother some who have a good ear like me, but it won't prevent anyone from recognizing the Mario theme Wink

For technical details on the calculator side :
- The calculator reads the current pixel with a sound corresponding to its height (y-coordinate). I had to find a way to jump from one height to another (not going through the pixels in between)
- To do that, we can draw a graph in Plot mode with a list of points Smile In Trace mode with a plot drawn, moving with the left / right arrow jumps from point to another and thus switches from a height to another directly !
- So : just define a list (here, L2) of y-coordinate representing the notes (pitch), and L1 the simple list of X values ​​ (a trivial seq(A,A,1,dim(L2->L1 will suffice)

Mario's notes (y-coordinates) are :

Some technical obstacles :
- You are limited to 95 points, so 95 notes, for each Plot. We can thus have 285 notes in total by combining 3 Plots with 3 ordered lists (to go from one to the other, use the up / down arrows)
- It is not with this method that we can have rhythm (on the video, you see that I'm doing it manually). Perhaps with the program Xeda made (IIRC), it can perform a sequence of keystrokes to automate the process ? Or maybe with another way I have not yet found via basic programs to display a point to be read ... (granted, I have not yet tried much).
- It is not like this that we get several notes at once. But hey, just buy several Orion ....  ;D

See you soon for some more … peculiar experiments ? Wink

Source : http://tiplanet.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=12949&lang=en
How about a news?
Hey, even ticalc.org mentioned the music Wink
It's certainly a very neat tech demo!
I'm still waiting for mine, and I plan to write a solid review when it arrives. I intend to include yours with links once I'm able to do my own review (but remember that unlike ticalc.org and Omnimaga, we aren't a community news aggregator. Smile ).
Unless I misunderstood you, you told us yourself on IRC to spot you anything we thought as newsworthy.

Are you getting your Orion from TI ?
critor wrote:
Unless I misunderstood you, you told us yourself on IRC to spot you anything we thought as newsworthy.
Absolutely, but that doesn't mean we're under any obligation to front-page it. In fact, I'd argue that more of our members read the new topics than read the front page for news anyway.

Are you getting your Orion from TI ?
That's the plan. I believe they are currently encountering manufacturing hiccups.
KermMartian wrote:
critor wrote:
Unless I misunderstood you, you told us yourself on IRC to spot you anything we thought as newsworthy.
Absolutely, but that doesn't mean we're under any obligation to front-page it.

I don't remember having mentionned any obligation anywhere...

For some reasons, I think that you've been totally misjudging me - a problem which can only be solved if you take the time to speak frankly about it.

And I know about TI - we're supposed to have gotten the last sample they had in stock.
I'm sharing the following content on Cemetech only because I think it could interest or entertain you.
There are no other reasons - I don't bother about being famous, or about you visiting my website or not. Thank you for understanding.

In an above post, Adriweb did invent an easy way to play music on TI-84 Plus, using the Orion voice module.

Indeed, system 2.55/ORk plays a sound based on the vertical position whenever the cursor on the graph screen is moved.
A first approach was therefore to use the function 'Trace' mode to obtain a sequence of sounds. In this mode, the cursor follows the plot of the function and shows you the coordinates of a point for each column of the screen. As Adriweb noted, in this context we were limited by the hardware: the width of the screen (96x64 pixels). We couldn't play without interruption a music of more than 96 notes in theory (95 in practice, the first note tending to ne skipped upon 'Trace' mode activation).

Beyond 95 notes, you need a several seconds pause to switch the plot or chande the window before going on. Sad

I am pleased to announce today that I have literally exploded this hardware limitation!
Instead of the function 'Trace' mode, let's use the statistics 'Trace' mode which works completely differently.
Instead of giving the coordinates of points for each column of the screen, it gives them to each value of the X-axis list. With more than 95 elements, points are going to appear in the same screen column. But this time they can all be selected and therefore they are all playable!

We are now limited by the software, as the maximum number of items for lists on TI-83+/84 is 999 - but it's enough to play musics more than 10 times longer than last time and to organize concerts! Wink

Here is for exemple a 125 notes music, proving that the 95 notes limit was crossed successfuly! Wink

Tinkerers philosophy:
The real question is not "what does it do" but "what can I make it do!" Wink

I have to say, I am definitely amused. :p
Quite cute. Unfortunately the tuning still suffers from the same issue, and it's mostly just disconcerting to listen to. There are certainly ways around it when arranging the music, but any kind of direct MIDI or other translation would likely be terrible.
I can just see it. "The Great TI Community Orion Band."
Thank you. Wink

If you want to help us at playing better music, I've got a reference video with all 63 sounds playable in trace mode (Y=0,1,2,...,61,62):
Yesterday I got the ORION, and took the unit off the calc it came with, and put it on my TI-84+ SE, the unit didn't work with the SE even after resetting it. I put the unit on the original calc, and reset the ORION to make it work. Now my ORION doesn't speak on the original calc even after resetting it. Can I get a bit of help?

Also, be sure to go on the online documentation, download the ORION update, and update the ORION firmware (The software to do so is on the provided USB)
Hi willwac,

Great that you could get the Orion TI-84+ Smile

The Orion module needs the TI-84+ calculator to run a special OS.
For us, the Orion TI-84+ calculator came with OS 2.55/ORk.

Without that OS, the voice module just won't work.
Check your Orion TI-84+ OS:

The 'Send OS' is disabled on the Orion TI-84+ calculator. So you'll need to dump the ROM and to rebuild a .8xu installable file for your TI-84+SE.

As you disconnected the module from the Orion TI-84+ calculator, they're not synchronized anymore.
To fix that:
- turn off the Orion TI-84+ calculator
- press simultaneously the 'PAUSE' and 'MUTE' keys on the module
- release them
- turn on the Orion TI-84+ calculator
Can you link me to a tutorial on how to do this?
Could you check your OS version? What is it?

1st step is to get the ROM dump.
You need to install the TiLP transfer software and double click on the system icon.
I'll check if there is some tutorial.
By the way, once the correct OS is installed, the Orion TI-84 Plus Silver Edition does perfectly work:

More informations:
http://tiplanet.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=13041&p=148508&lang=en (not available in english yet)
Will you make a version of MT3 for the ORION?
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