Page last updated at 09:14 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Intel debuts text reading device

By Geoff Adams-Spink
Age & disability correspondent, BBC News website

Photo of the Intel Reader
The Reader could be useful to blind, partially sighted and dyslexic people

Chip giant Intel has shown-off a device designed to give vision-impaired and dyslexic people access to printed text.

The device, known as the Reader, captures text and then reads it aloud and displays it on its built-in screen.

The development is unusual because so-called "assistive technologies" are normally manufactured by specialist companies rather than global giants.

The Reader is the size of a paperback book and uses a high-resolution camera and Intel's Atom processor.

The 600g (1.3lb) device was developed by Intel access technology director, Ben Foss, who is dyslexic himself.

"As someone who is part of the dyslexic community, I am thrilled to be able to help level the playing field for people who, like me, do not have easy access to the printed word," he said.

'Tactile scanner'

The Reader is being launched in the UK on 17 November at an event in London, after being unveiled in the US last week.

It is expected to sell for around £1,000.

Intel estimates that this technology could benefit as many as eight million people in the UK - if the six million people with dyslexia and other learning difficulties and the two million people with impaired vision are added together.

"The Intel Reader is a tool that can help give people with dyslexia, low-vision and blindness - or other reading-based disabilities - access to the resources they need to be successful in school, work and life," according to Mr Foss.

So much information is delivered in a print format and a device like this will help to break down barriers to accessing information
Steve Tyler
RNIB

The Reader is being sold alongside a portable scanner - called the Portable Capture Station - which will process several pages at a time, or even an entire book.

The scanner is contained within a hard-shell briefcase.

The Reader is capable of playing back a variety of content including MP3 files, DAISY books - a special format used for blind, dyslexic and other disabled people - and text files transferred from a computer.

It can also generate audio versions of printed material that can be listened to using a standard MP3 player or computer.

The device is fitted with tactile buttons, to make them easy to identify, and the text menus are read out so that it is easily used by people with little or no vision.

Intel says that the Reader will have enough battery power for a typical day's use.

The company's move into the disability market has been welcomed by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the British Dyslexia Association (BDA).

"This device has the potential to offer a great deal of independence to people who have a difficulty with reading," said BDA chief executive, Judi Stewart.

"So much information is delivered in a print format and a device like this will help to break down barriers to accessing information," added RNIB's Steve Tyler.

The Reader will be available from the specialist assistive technology suppliers like HumanWare and Inclusive Technology as well as mainstream retailers like Amazon.co.uk.



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