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Intel spins text-to-speech device for the visually impaired

Nov 10, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 71 views

Intel announced a Linux-based device with optical character recognition and text-to-speech technology. Designed for visually impaired or dyslexic users, the Atom-based Intel Reader is equipped with a five-megapixel camera for snapping photographs of text, which it then simultaneously displays and reads aloud, says Intel.

Developed by the Intel Digital Health Group, the Intel Reader is the brainchild of Intel researcher Ben Foss, one of an estimated 20 percent of people in the U.S. with dyslexia. The device also targets users with learning disabilities or vision problems. In the U.S. alone, some 55 million people have dyslexia, vision problems, or other serious reading handicaps, the company says.

Intel Reader

The 1.4-pound, 6.5 x 5.4 x 1.3-inch e-reader scans text, quickly converts it to digital format using OCR (optical character recognition), then uses text-to-speech technology to read it aloud. Based on the Intel Atom Z540 processor, the rarely used high-end 1.86GHz member of the Atom family, the Intel Reader runs embedded Linux. (One news report suggested the device runs Moblin, which would make sense, although we did not see any evidence of this.)

The Intel Reader is equipped with 512MB RAM and a 4GB solid state drive (SSD), of which 2GB is available for user storage. This is said to be enough to hold 600 image-enhanced "processed pages" (with up to 20 pages waiting to be processed), or up to 500,000 text-only pages.

Intel Reader detail

The 4.3-inch, 480 by 272-pixel display does not offer touch support, but instead provides tactile buttons and voice menus, allowing audio-only use by the fully blind. For users with low vision, the device offers features such as text zoom and the ability to adjust text size.

The five-megapixel autofocus camera is designed to offer a focus range of four inches to 1.1 yard (10cm to 1m), says Intel.  An optional Intel Portable Capture Station is available for scanning larger amounts of text, the company adds.

The Intel Reader depends on touch controls and voice menus, enabling use by the visually impaired

Additional features include speakers, earphones, a USB 2.0 port, and a mini-USB port for charging. A six-cell lithium-ion battery supports four hours of text-to-speech activity or five days' standby, says the company. The Intel Reader supports a variety of text formats, as well as MP3 and "DAISY" digital talking book audio formats.

Specifications listed for the Intel Reader include:

  • Processor — Intel Atom Z540
  • Memory — 512MB DDR2 RAM
  • Flash — 4GB solid state drive (SSD), with 2GB available for user data
  • Display — 4.3-inch, 480 x 272 color display with 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Camera — 5-megapixel; autofocus; flash
  • USB — 1 x USB 2.0 Type A; 1 x USB 2.0 Type Mini B
  • Audio — Stereo audio jack with earphones; integrated speakers
  • Power adapter — 100-240V, 1.5A input; 12V, 5A output; 1 lb (0.45k); consumes 30 Watts max.
  • Battery — 6-cell Lithium-ion battery; 4 hours text-to-speech; 5 days standby
  • Dimensions — 6.5 x 5.4 x 1.3 inches (16.5 x 13.6 x 3.3cm)
  • Weight — 1.4 lbs (0.63 k) with battery
  • Operating system — Linux

Intel Reader demo on YouTube

Stated Louis Burns, VP and GM of Intel's Digital Health Group, "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."

Stated key Intel Reader developer Foss, director of access technology, "As someone who is part of this 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. Feelings of loneliness are often the experience of not being able to read easily. We hope to open the doors for people in these communities."


The Intel Reader will be available in the U.S. for a suggested price of $1,500 through select resellers, including CTL, Don Johnston Incorporated, GTSI, Howard Technology Solutions, and HumanWare, says Intel. More information may be found here.

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