Intel Launches Text-to-Speech Mobile E-Reader For Disabled

The Reader, which will be available through select Intel VARs at launch, is geared to users with disabilities such as dyslexia or blindness, but Intel also sees potential use for English-as-a-second-language (ESL) users and anyone who has trouble reading printed text.

Ben Foss, director of access technology for Intel's Digital Health Group, came up with the original concept for the Reader while a researcher at Intel.

Foss is himself dyslexic, and in an interview with ChannelWeb suggested the Reader gets at a problem that's not always easily addressed in home or workplace settings.

"If I'm in a business setting and I have a boss who wants me to read a bunch of material before a meeting, that's a problem," Foss said. "And then if we're in that meeting and we're expected to read a PowerPoint, I'm the guy who has to ask someone to read the PowerPoint to him."

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The Intel Reader is roughly the size of a paperback book, includes a 5-megapixel camera and runs on Intel's Atom processor. Users point the Reader at a sheet of text -- such as a book page, manual or restaurant menu -- and the Reader captures the text, converts it digitally and through text-to-speech reads it back to the user.

The Reader's LCD display measures 4.3 inches and has a 4 GB Intel Solid State Drive, with approximately 2 GB for user data. The Reader can hold about 600 processed pages (meaning pages with both images and text), or 500,000 text-only pages.

The Reader has a 6-cell lithium-ion battery and can play more than 4 hours of text-to-speech of mp3 audio, or stay powered in standby mode for 5 days. It weighs 1.38 lbs with the battery in.

According to Intel, the Reader can also be used with Intel's Portable Capture Station to capture and save large volumes of text.

Intel will initially offer the Reader through a small group of solution providers including CTL, Don Johnston Inc., GTSI, Howard Technology Solutions and HumanWare.

Foss said Intel may look to expand that group, but is focused on those VARs based on business potential. Don Johnston and HumanWare, for example, specialize in technologies for the disabled. GTSI and Howard Technology, on the other hand, have large government and education businesses with customers -- such as federal government employees or K-12 school districts -- that have significant disabled or ESL populations.

"The Intel Reader is one of the most exciting technology products that we've seen in years and we're incredibly excited to be able to offer it to our government and education customers," said Mike Mahanay, general manages of sales and marketing for CTL Corp., Portland, Ore., in a statement mailed to ChannelWeb. "Its potential to transform the lives of our customers' clients and students is monumental, and we are thrilled to be part of the solution to support people who struggle with reading standard print. Further, the Intel Reader is an important product strategically for CTL because it complements our existing offerings from education-oriented notebooks to public sector hardware."