The Kapten PLUS

With an emphasis on the PLUS

By Peggy O'Dell - Guest writer

Published in: Update - Issue 2 - 2011 »     Listen to Article ♫

With the combination of his Leader Dog and
his GPS, Carroll can easily find the
restaurant where he and his wife Susan
planned to meet for lunch.

Things move fast in the technology world. Just a few years ago people were learning what the letters "GPS" stood for. Now we're hearing new terms like "location technology" to describe the technology used to let us know where we are and "personal navigational device" to describe the equipment we use to access the location technology (of which GPS is just one type). It can be hard to stay on top of the changes.

Every day Leader Dog is working to identify technological advances that may prove beneficial to our clients. When the Kapten*, built by Kapsys of France, popped onto our radar in December of 2009, we knew that with a few modifications, the device would be an improvement over the current GPS we were supplying to our clients.

A Seasoned GPS User—Carroll Jackson
Carroll Jackson laughs when he recalls receiving his first GPS from Leader Dog in 2007. The Trekker Maestro had 36 buttons. It was so large and cumbersome that it had to be worn on a strap across his chest. "It was a very intimidating unit," he said. "Of course at the time we thought it was wonderful, even if it did make us all look like crossing guards."

When he received the Trekker Breeze two years later, he was happy that it was smaller and only had nine buttons, but there was still room for improvement.

Carroll agreed to test the newest GPS unit, the Kapten PLUS, for Leader Dog in November 2010 and describes it as much smaller and significantly less expensive ($295) than earlier GPS devices. The Kapten PLUS also includes a voice recognition mode, which the retired educator said makes for "a very powerful device."

"It's about the size of a deck of cards," he said, "and so much easier to use."

After working with the two earlier GPS devices, Carroll was happy to see that the Kapten PLUS has a longer battery life, the ability to verbally enter new addresses and a feature for finding and navigating to restaurants, hotels and other locations. But perhaps his favorite feature is the voice recognition capability.

"Voice recognition is a beautiful thing," Carroll said. "If I want to know what time it is, I just ask the Kapten PLUS. If I want to know where I am, I just ask, 'Where am I?' I can't imagine not having a GPS now."

As a Leader Dog field representative, Carroll and his Leader Dog, Hunter, travel the country speaking at many Lions Club conventions. He enjoys demonstrating the GPS to a group of interested Lions but acknowledges that he contacts as many, or possibly more, people when he travels to and from conventions.

Carroll was waiting for a plane at O'Hare Airport in Chicago when he used his Kapten PLUS to check the time. The man seated next to him asked about it, so he started explaining how it works. Soon a group of about 20 people had gathered, which led to Carroll giving an impromptu Leader Dog presentation. When he stood up to go to his plane, the group applauded. When he got to the stairs of the small commuter plane on the tarmac, he asked the attendant if there was anyone standing at the window watching him board the plane. When he replied "Yes," Carroll turned and waved to the crowd watching from the window.

"Now that's what you call marketing," Carroll laughed.

James and Leader Dog Claire frequented a
local Rochester coffee shop during training.
James used his Kapten PLUS to find the
location and Claire helped him locate the door.

A First-Time GPS User—James Ryan

As an IT manager at a Seattle hospital, James Ryan spends his days working with technology. The self-proclaimed techie admits that his love of technology spills over into his home life as well. And now, with his recent introduction to the Kapten PLUS GPS, technology will also be included in his daily travels.

James traveled to Michigan recently to receive his third Leader Dog, a yellow Labrador named Claire. What he didn't know was that he would be receiving a free Kapten PLUS at the same time.

"I was not aware that I would be getting a Kapten PLUS prior to arriving at Leader Dog," James said. "It will be a great tool to use along with my dog."

The Kapten PLUS is James' first GPS, and he found it easy to use, for the techie and the non-techie alike. "Even if someone is not technical, it comes with great instructions," he said. "All you have to do is spend some time with the user guide. It is very easy to interact with."

After working with the Kapten PLUS, James believes it will have a broad appeal to both cane and dog users. "All different types of people can use it in different ways to fill in the gaps," he said. "To use it along with a dog is great, but if you use a cane, or have to go back to using a cane for some reason, it will be amazingly helpful."

James is looking forward to using it when he explores new cities with Claire. An avid traveler, he especially likes that the Kapten PLUS comes pre-loaded with a map of all 50 states and that it groups points of interest together by category (for example restaurants, shopping, etc). However, his favorite feature, whether he is in an unfamiliar city or his own hometown, is that he can easily determine where he is by using the "Where am I?" button on the unit, or by just saying "Where am I?" since the device has voice recognition.

"Before I would have had to ask someone what intersection I was at," he said. "But now the Kapten PLUS can tell me. It definitely will give me more independence."

* Kapten refers to the device built by Kapsys of France. Kapten PLUS is the modified device for use by people who are blind or visually impaired.