[Athen] Intel Reader

Sean J Keegan skeegan at stanford.edu
Wed Jun 9 12:32:34 PDT 2010

> I was wondering if anyone had any experience using

> the Intel Reader, especially with a student who

> is blind?

I visited with several members of the Intel team that developed the
Intel Reader about a month ago. I did not use it extensively, but did
get to play with it briefly (so there may be some things that I missed).

For the most part, it basically does exactly what it says - it will take
a picture of a single page (or both pages) of a book and then
immediately begin the OCR process. Once that has been completed, the
information will be read back to the individual.

In terms of an individual who is blind, all the menus are self-voicing
and there is built-in text-to-speech functionality with the ability to
vary the speaking rate. For a blind individual to take a picture, the
Intel Reader team demonstrated one method where the user would hold the
camera in their hands and then move the camera upward until the user's
elbows touched the sides of the book. They did several demonstrations
and, while I was initially skeptical, it did seem like it worked. Of
course, you would want to avoid wearing baggy sleeves when trying this

There is also a stand that will hold the Intel Reader at a
pre-determined height (called the Intel Portable Capture Station) and
allow you to set a textbook in a holding tray. Think of this as a basic
scanning system for books that you would not want to chop. The Intel
Reader folks said they could process a 100+ page book in about 10
minutes (that is, just taking the picture).

All in all, the device worked well and the OCR functionality was
*really* good from just a camera photo. While there are some
limitations with the OCR capability (e.g., no math support), I think it
is mostly inline with what alternate media specialists have been dealing
with for some time. You can also dump text and DAISY-formatted
materials onto the device and it will be read to you as well. The
on-board storage is only 2GB for user data, so you need to be careful
what information is being added to the Reader.

> I tend to think it's a nice gadget for reading a menu
> or a hand out, but would not work well for the
> typical college textbook.

I do think there is a place for such a device in higher education.
Where that place is, however, is open for debate. It could be very
useful for someone who needs an immediate, on-the-spot, reading device
and does not have the ability to wait for a document to be processed -
this is it's strength, IMO. Alternatively, the materials may not be
easily available in an electronic format in a school library (and
cutting the spine is not an option). For those colleges/universities
that offer foreign exchange programs, this could be a handy device to
ensure alternate format access when a computer is not readily available
or the environment is not suitable (e.g., archaeological dig but the
student still needs to read daily handouts, updates, etc. while onsite -
yep, been there).

That being said, the cost is a bit of a barrier at $1500 and with the
alt format support infrastructure at a college/university, I personally
think most students would choose a laptop plus portable device over just
the Reader (once again, if price was an issue). I do think it has a
niche, but it may not be something that is necessary for all
institutions or appropriate for all students.

Take care,
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