Intel has introduced a handheld device designed to help dyslexic, low-vision, and blind persons by using a combination of a point-and-shoot camera and text-to-speech technology to read text that for them would otherwise be difficult or impossible to comprehend. The Reader has a list price of $1,499. The user points the device's …
Poorly chosen headline
Generally I like the Register's attitude, but not this time. Many of the readers use American English, and that gives the headline a completely different slant. Intel is trying to do a good thing here, but the non-British usage of "punts" makes it sound like Intel is doing a bad thing. Actually, I'm not even certain of the British usage, but I think it just means "offers" or "is selling", but I am sure the American usage would suggest "drops", "discontinues", or even "bungles". The Register likes twisty headlines and double entendres, but "punts" is a poorly selected verb in this case.
Now where's the grammar nazi icon?
This is a Kurzweil Reader in essence. Yes this is the same Kurzweil who is a big believer in the technological Singularity.
Early one was very expensive (>$100,000), a few large libraries got them. From the photo it was like a table top height thing stuffed with electronics. I saw a few very old models, one was about the size of a mini fridge tipped on it's side, it was a rather large scanner (like original HP Scanjet sized) with an even bigger base (about a foot tall), because it had a SPARC with DECTalk card built in. I saw a later one that was still in the form of a thick scanner. I think this one also had a SPARC system with DECTalk card but was 6 or 8 years newer. Since then the software to do the same thing is available on cellphone and PDA. They even made a PDA with the software preloaded *called* a Reader. No singularity as yet but this example does startlingly illustrate the direct effects of advancing technologies.
Not that I'm complaining, Intel's device could improve on things perhaps. But it may be a big surprise if the guys at Intel think they just came up with this.
Veerrry Clever, but...
OK, so how exactly does a blind person point the gadget at a sign? and, indeed, how does such a user know there is a sign there at which to point it?
@Robert E A Harvey
I was wondering if someone was going to mention this. Most blind people still have some light perception and are not totally blind as many people believe. The percentage of people with absolutely no light perception at all is relatively low.
Unauthorised copy of the text?
Under existing copyright legislation, this would be a device for unauthorised copying of the text. As the European Publishers' representative said in the European Parliament yesterday... "some books are meant to be audio books and others are not" - hence the need to get people to pay again for books they have already been paid for, if they use a device to read the book out loud.
@Robert E A Harvey
Indeed as already said it's aimed at people with (very) poor eyesight rather than the totally blind. Having said that, every time I see a device like this I think back to the `Not The-Nine'O'Clock News` sketch where they design a flashing light attachment to help deaf people see the phone ringing.
This is impressively over-priced.
I would have imagined the ZiiEGG could have done a better job for the same task?
@ Not Fred31
I wonder how that would fare under the Disability Discrimination Act? Would that count as copyright holders discriminating against people with a disability by blocking their access to goods and services?
In the same way that a library would have to put in a ramp for wheelchair users...
Just a thought.
There's a lot happening in this market.
As stated above a very low percentage of 'blind' people have zero vision, so pointing at signs isn't out of the question. Even those with no vision can line up on a book or label by touch. With headphones you might also be able to use it on cash machines, with a bit of practise.
On the copyright issue, this area is a bit different. For personal use I believe there's an exemption for making braille and large print copies of material you own. I've never looked into whether this stretches to electronic copies, but I'd guess it does.
I've had a lot of success with using a mobile phone camera + digital zoom as a magnifying glass when I've forgotten the old reading glasses, so I'd guess with modern smartphones having such powerful processors, some of this application could be coded for existing handsets. All you need is an acceptable quality camera.
@robert e harvey
My totally blind mother already uses a similar system installed on a Nokia N82 phone. This system actually tells the person holding the phone whether or not a document is in the viewfinder and at what angle the image is oriented.
The photograph taken with the camera is stored as a pdf and then read back through the KNBF reader software via Nuances voices, which incidentally includes a range of English voices.