• November 10, 2009
  • By Leonard Klie Senior News Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • Features

Intel Reader Transforms Printed Text to Spoken Word

Intel today launched the Intel Reader, a mobile handheld device designed to read printed text aloud as a way to assist the estimated 55 million people in the United States who have dyslexia or other learning disabilities, or have vision problems.

The Intel Reader, which is about the size of a paperback book, converts printed text to digital text, and then reads it aloud using text-to-speech processing. The words appear on the integrated 4.3-inch LCD screen as they are being read aloud, and can be magnified as the user's needs dictate. The user can also set the speed and pitch at which the text is read, select a voice and gender, and navigate the device's menus, which are also speech-enabled.

Audio playback of the printed text is said to average about 95 percent to 98 percent accuracy, according to Ben Foss, director of access technology at Intel's Digital Health Group. And when the reader comes across an unfamiliar word or makes a mispronunciation, the device has a spell function that reads aloud the individual letters, he says. 

Users load content onto the device in the same way they would load music onto an MP3 player, or through an integrated high-resolution camera. A larger Intel Portable Capture Station allows users to photograph larger amounts of text, such as full chapters, books, magazines, or journals, for conversion and reading later. The device's 4-gigabyte hard drive stores up to 600 pages of images and text. A rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides up to four hours of continuous text-to-speech audio on a single charge. 

The Intel Reader, a product of Intel's Digital Health Group, will be available in the U.S. through select assistive technology resellers, including CTL, Don Johnston, GTSI, Howard Technology Solutions, and HumanWare. The retail price is $1,499.

The Intel Reader has been endorsed by the International Dyslexia Association as an important advance in assistive technology. Additionally, Intel is working with the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs, the Council for Exceptional Children, Lighthouse International, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and the National Federation of the Blind to help reach and address the needs of people who have difficulty reading print.

“The Intel Digital Health Group’s expertise is in finding innovative technology solutions to improve quality of life,” Louis Burns, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Digital Health Group, said in a statement. “We are proud to offer the Intel Reader as a tool for people who have trouble reading standard print so they can more easily access the information many of us take for granted every day, such as reading a job offer letter or even the menu at a restaurant.”

The original concept for the Intel Reader came from Foss, who was identified as dyslexic in elementary school. Throughout high school, college, and graduate school, he had to depend on others to read to him or work through the slow process of getting words off of a page himself. As an adult, much of the content he wanted, from professional journals to pleasure reading, just wasn’t available in audio form.

"The experience of these disabilities is isolation because you can't participate in certain activities," Foss says. He notes that when he was in school, "a lot of the assistive technologies that were available were laborious, and audio books were not available in a lot of subject areas.

The Intel Reader, he says, "is about getting those little things back." 

But the device has other uses as well. Among them, it can help immigrants learning to read English, Foss says.

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