The Zybox for iOS is a new switch interface from Zygo that uses VoiceOver to control the iOS and VoiceOver compatible apps on your iPad or iPhone. The most significant advantage of this adapter is that it is the first one I have tried that plugs directly into the port on the iPad. This will help in some situations where Bluetooth adapters have proved impractical (e.g. some hearing aid loops seem to interfere with the Bluetooth switch adapters).The Zybox for iOS gets power from the port on the iPad so it doesn’t ever require charging. There are two models – the 30 pin model for the iPad 1, 2 and 3rd generation and a Lightning model for the 4th generation iPad and iPad mini. I was unable to use the 30 pin Zybox with my 4th generation iPad with an adapter as the Zybox didn’t get enough power – so it’s important you get the right model for your iDevice at the beginning. If you have the correct model, however, it works seamlessly – just plug it in, turn on VoiceOver and then you are ready to go.
It took me a little while to get used to using the Zybox with 1 switch as timing is all important. A quick press (of normal duration) selects the item currently being highlighted by VoiceOver. A longer press (1 second) starts scanning and a 3 second press activates the Home button. A 5 second press toggles Quick Nav on or off. This requires a lot of counting in your head and in the beginning my counting was often a bit off and I ended up activating the wrong function! However, once I got used to the timing I was easily able to use the interface to move between apps, open an app and navigate around a VoiceOver compatible app.
In two switch mode, the first switch starts the scan pattern, while the second switch has multiple functions. Again these are timing related – a short press selects the current item highlighted by VoiceOver, a 2 second press selects the home button and a 5 second press once again toggles Quick Nav on or off.
No manual was supplied with the Zybox but the chart on the back of the adapter gives you the details of what each switch does (see above). As you can see, up to 6 switches can be plugged into the Zybox. Once all 6 switches are plugged in, the interface can be used to provide control to a large number of functions of VoiceOver. However, as I mentioned when reviewing the Tecla Access, there are limited people who would need switch access and are able to use 6 switches so this review will focus on 1 and 2 switch access.
Once I had launched an app, I was unable to get the onscreen keyboard to appear the first time I needed it in either 1 or 2 switch mode. This is consistent with most other interfaces I have tried. Unlike the Switch2Scan there isn’t a button to trigger bringing up the keyboard. In 6 switch mode it is easy to bring the keyboard up – but for a 1 or 2 switch user it is more hit and miss which could end up being very frustrating.
When I plugged in 5 switches, I was able to trigger iBooks mode. This meant that I was able to use just two switches to page back and forth in a book – but I needed to have 5 switches plugged into the interface to get into this mode even if I didn’t intend to use them. This is a useful feature though as I can set a one switch user up to change pages or a two switch user up to page back and forth by plugging their switches into the right ports and plugging other switches in as “dummies”.
Overall, the interface is extremely easy to setup and use. Definitely the easiest that I have setup so far. It also offers the ability to navigate around the home screens and VoiceOver compatible apps with one or two switches as long as the user has the ability to time the length of their switch presses. Typing and use of the keyboard doesn’t always go smoothly in 1 or 2 switch mode. Many more functions are available if the user has access to more than two switches – particularly if the user can use 6 switches. Most importantly, this interface plugs directly into the iPad port, which eliminates the problems some users have had with Bluetooth interfaces.