Intel has introduced the Intel Reader, an Intel Atom based device that helps people who are visually impaired or dyslexic read books and newspapers. The Reader, which sells for $1499 US, scans text then plays back an audio file to the user. It’s a Kindle for the blind, in other words.
Although pre-recorded audio disks are already available for best sellers and popular books at mainstream book retailers, visually impaired people still need a way to have access to technical or legal documents, obscure academic texts, trade publications, newspapers, and other types of documents. Intel has estimated there are up to 55 million people in the U.S. who could benefit from the Reader. A UK version will be unveiled within days and other country versions are planned for the future.
The device, about the size of a paperback, includes a 5-megapixel digital camera, a Linux-based, optical character recognition system, and text to spoken word conversion software. The 2GB of onboard storage can hold about 600 scanned pages. To use the Reader, you hold it a few feet above the page you want to read; the device snaps a photo, within seconds converts the page to text, and then displays it in large font or reads it aloud. In addition to playing back scanned text, the new device also supports MP3s, WAV files, text files and the DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) format, used to publish books for people with reading problems. Audio playback speed can be varied.
The small device offers a much more portable alternative to bulkier reading aides like as text magnifiers, costing around $3,000, and Braille readers, which can cost between $7,000 and $10,000, said Ben Foss, director of access technology with Intel’s Digital Health Group, who came up with the idea of the Reader.