SAN JOSE, Calif. Thirty-six years ago, Ben Foss conceived of a device that could read out text from printed pages to help him with his dyslexia. Tomorrow (Nov. 10) Foss will ship the product in his role as director of access technology for Intel's digital health group.
The Intel Reader is a paperback-sized device that can take a picture of printed text with its 5 megapixel camera and convert it to speech. The company hopes the $1,499 system will serve millions of people with dyslexia and difficulty seeing printed text.
"I filed the first patents on this technology and have been the leader of the design team," said Foss, one of 55 million people with dyslexia in the U.S.
"When I was growing up my technology was my mom" who would read to him from school books at night, he said. "I faxed papers to her from three states away when I was in college because I felt too embarrassed to let people in the dorm know I couldn't read," he added.
|Intel's Ben Foss holds the text-to-speech reader he designed to assist dyslexics and the visually impaired.|
The Intel Reader is the third system launched by the Digital Health group Intel launched about five years ago to address emerging opportunities in medical electronics. The Mobile Clinical Assistant is a reference design for hospital workers, and the Intel Health Guide is a specialized home PC for monitoring chronic diseases at home.
Like its predecessors, the Intel Reader is a vehicle for the company's chips. It uses an Atom processor and 4 Gbyte Intel flash drive as well as Intel's Moblin mobile Linux operating system. The 4 Gbyte card can hold 600 processed page or 500,000 raw text pages.
Intel designed the device, has it built by contract manufacturers and has agreements to sell it through a handful of specialty dealers in the U.S. who cater to people with reading impediments. They include CTL, Don Johnston Inc., GTSI, Howard Technology Solutions and HumanWare.
Foss would not say whose text-to-speech software the device uses. The Intel Reader supports a list of specific speech formats including Daisy 2.02, NISO 2002 and NIMAS 1.1, suggesting possible partners.
The Intel Reader aims to address a wide variety of ad hoc reading needs from books and newspapers to instructions and poster. Some existing electronic readers sport text-to speech software, but they don't support full speech-based menus or enlarge font sizes the way the Intel Reader does, Foss said.
The company is also providing a portable device to convert books into spoken word files. The Intel Portable Capture Station is a peripheral that captures a page every few seconds, has a docking port for the Reader and can be folded into the size of a small briefcase.
The Intel Reader has been endorsed by a number of organizations including the International Dyslexia Association. "The Intel Reader has the potential to significantly change the way millions of people with impaired vision function at work, at home and at school," said Dorrie Rush, a marketing director for Lighthouse International, a non-profit advocacy group for the visually impaired, speaking in a prepared statement.
|The Intel Reader holds as many as 600 text-to-speech ready pages and costs $1,499.|