Intel mobile device speaks to dyslexics and visually impaired

2 Feb 2010

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Intel has unveiled a mobile device that could increase independence for people who have trouble reading standard print. Using camera technology and an Atom processor, the device can read any form of print and read it back to the user.

Around 10pc of the Irish population is affected by dyslexia to some extent. The Dyslexia Association of Ireland describes it as a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language-related skills.

In addition, about 10,000 people are registered blind or visually impaired in Ireland and there are now more than 14,000 people using the services offered by the National Council for the Blind.

The Intel Reader, which is about the size of a paperback book, converts printed text into digital text, and then reads it aloud to the user. Its unique design combines a high-resolution camera with the power of an Intel Atom processor, allowing users to point, shoot and listen to printed text.

The Intel Reader will be available in Ireland through select resellers, including Ash Low Vision and Jackson Technology.

Intel has groups at work at its operations in Ireland looking at technologies to improve people’s lives. A US$30-million project funded by Intel and IDA Ireland called the ‘Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL) Centre’ and operating from St James’s Hospital Dublin is focused on researching new technologies which enable people to live independent lives for as long as possible and in the environments of their choice.

With partners including Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and National University of Ireland, Galway, more than 60 researchers are involved in multidisciplinary research aimed at enhancing quality of life for elderly citizens, as well as how they interact with healthcare services and informal care givers, such as family and friends.

The original concept for the Intel Reader came from Ben Foss, director of access technology, at Intel’s Digital Health Group, who has dyslexia. Throughout school, college and university he had to depend on others to read to him or work through the slow process of getting words off a page himself. As an adult, much of the content he wanted, from professional journals to reading for leisure, just wasn’t available in audio form.

How Intel’s reader works

At a briefing in Dublin this morning, Douglas Shenk, product manager at Intel, demonstrated how the reader can be placed over a book or a newspaper and using the high resolution capture the text.

“The device is smart enough to take a few pictures and assemble them in the correct order and then begin reading. This device really comes into its own when reading large quantities of information such as a book; it will keep capturing pages and text. There’s a USB port on the device that can be connected to a PC for use as mass storage.”

Shenk described how at a recent International Dyslexia Conference he loaned the device to a teenager with dyslexia. “When we found her a few hours later she was doing her homework. Her mother told me that the device saved her two to three hours of reading. We believe the Reader gives people a chance to have a level playing field.”

Speaking at the briefing, Rosie Bissett, director of the Dyslexia Association of Ireland, said that 10pc of the Irish population would have some form of dyslexia, from mild to severe. “The biggest factor is a lack of self-confidence that people with dyslexia feel.

“Any tool that enables people to do things is a bonus. The goal is to have a confident, self-sufficient learner,” Bissett said.

Asked if Intel had any plans to license the technology to OEMs to feature in future versions of netbooks, tablet computers and mobile phones, Shenk said: “This is an Atom-based platform using Moblin Linux. There are clearly platforms out there for it, but nothing we are announcing or discussing today.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: The Intel Reader

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com