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Intel's New E-Reader For the Visually Impaired 111

Posted by kdawson
from the tell-me-a-story dept.
serverguy writes "Intel will be releasing a win for all visually impaired members of society, a new device called the Intel Reader. It allows visually impaired people to take a snapshot of a newspaper, book, or magazine and have it read back to them. It's estimated that in the US alone there are as many as 55 million people who could make use of such a device. It comes at hefty price though: the paperback-sized device costs $1,499. The device contains a 5-megapixel camera and is powered by a Linux OCR system that converts text into spoken words. The device can hold up to 2GB of data, which would equate to around 600 snapshots. In addition to reading text, the device can also play back audio books in a number of supported formats such as MP3 and WAV. The Intel Reader is expected to be released next Tuesday." The device won't be speedy: "Intel says it takes about 30 seconds to process each page of text... It took... about 30 minutes to scan in the pages of a 250-page book and then one hour to process them."
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Intel's New E-Reader For the Visually Impaired

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  • 30 seconds ought to be enough for anybody.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thewils (463314)

      But that's only for n=1 though. For larger values of n (approaching 250) the time comes down to around 7.2 seconds per page.

      That's according to the summary. Which might be wrong.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MozeeToby (1163751)

        From the summary, 30 minutes to scan, 60 minutes to process. Comes to about 22 seconds actually; which, for all intents and purposes, is about 30 seconds.

    • by Larryish (1215510)

      How do the blind people know where to point the camera?

      • I believe you may be confusing blindness [wikipedia.org] with no light perception.

      • A larger group than "blind" will be visually-impaired... people who can probably see the book, but not the words. I'm facing such a fate myself soon. I came up with a similar idea, but as usual someone beat me to it [associatedcontent.com]. Just use your camera phone, and port some decent open-source OCR software to it.

        In general, I'm not a fan of dedicated e-book readers. I think next year we'll see some killer multi-touch arm-based net-tablets with e-paper-like displays [youtube.com] and battery life. I think the killer app will be the e

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @06:30PM (#30052678)

    The raw features somehow make the $1500 seem odd. The admittedly unwieldy equivalent built out of commodity parts is basically a 5-megapixel camera that transfers its data over USB (can be had for under $100 these days), and a netbook (~$300), for a total of ~$400 of hardware. What's the extra $1100 for? The integration into a nice portable package? Development costs of a proprietary OCR/voicesynth pipeline?

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      I still laugh at the for the blind part. Are the blind expected to know what page they're on with which to have read?

      "I really wonder what page 47 says".

      • I still laugh at the for the blind part. Are the blind expected to know what page they're on with which to have read?
        "I really wonder what page 47 says".

        What exactly makes you laugh about this? If you scan or take a picture of a page and OCR it, that typically includes the page number. If you scan and OCR a whole book, you can ctrl-f for the page number or skip to that page in the document if you have kept the pagination the same. Then you listen to what is on page 47 and no longer wonder. Blind peop
        • by poetmatt (793785)

          What I'm saying is that it's not at all practical. Blind people can't see the page number without the reader, and the idea is to be able to OCR the book. OCR'ing has it's uses and that in itself can assist the visually impaired, but the device itself is not visually impaired friendly. Also, my uncle is blind, so I actually am quite familiar with how OCR helps him out.

          • How exactly could it be more practical? Currently to read a book a blind or visually impaired person that can't read needs a sighted person that can assist them or they need to manually scan a whole book or whatever pages they want. A flatbed scanner is usually slower than snapping a picture. This or a cellphone with similar software on it is a portable solution that makes the same thing possible. Yes they have to wait for the OCR process to know what the page number is or they have to OCR the whole book an
    • by theaveng (1243528) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @07:01PM (#30053048)

      The extra $1100 is for Intel to pay their legal defense fund when the Authors' Guild sues them for violating their authors' "performance rights".

      I'm serious. The Guild has already sued Amazon for creating a Kindle that reads books out loud.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by schon (31600)

        When I was at the 2001 Canadian copyright consultation, I spoke with a publisher about something just like this.

        We were arguing about DMCA-like amendments to copyright law. His position was that he should be able to prohibit *anything* that was capable of reading an e-book, because it would infringe his copyright. Even if that device would read ebooks to blind people. He told me that if he wanted to publish a version for blind people, he would, and that if he didn't, nobody should be allowed to make some

        • by theaveng (1243528)

          Or cold-hearted. Doesn't the Americans with Disabilities Act require books to be published in braille form, if a blind person requests it?

          Also his attitude is not too surprising. There used to be a company that purchased perfectly-legal DVDs of movies, removed the objectionable scenes, and then sold the DVD (plus $10 to cover the service) to families. That company got sued, and the directors argued if familes want clean versions, they will provide them. Well that company is now gone, but I don't see any

          • My understanding is that scanning a book that you own to put it through a brailler or into Kuzweil software is specifically protected by law.

          • by schon (31600)

            Doesn't the Americans with Disabilities Act require books to be published in braille form, if a blind person requests it?

            I have no idea. I do know, however, that as a US law, it's not binding on Canadians. :)

            • by dissy (172727)

              Doesn't the Americans with Disabilities Act require books to be published in braille form, if a blind person requests it?

              I have no idea. I do know, however, that as a US law, it's not binding on Canadians. :)

              So, it's only legally required to be in English braille and French braille? ;}

              (Please don't hurt me, I'm only joking!)

          • by dangitman (862676)

            There used to be a company that purchased perfectly-legal DVDs of movies, removed the objectionable scenes, and then sold the DVD (plus $10 to cover the service) to families. That company got sued, and the directors argued if familes want clean versions, they will provide them.

            I agree with the objection to not providing copies for visually impaired people, but how can you defend this shit? Those companies are butchering someone else's work for profit (and $10 is more than the original creator is making from each sale).

            Also,, from memory, the situation was not "if families wanted clean versions, we will provide them," it was "we may or may not provide clean versions, but probably not" because the creators wanted to maintain artistic integrity.

            A "perfectly legal" DVD to buy for pri

            • >>>Those companies are butchering someone else's work

              Ahh. Did we hurt wittle directors' feelings, because we don't want our 5-year-olds hearing "fuck you" in the middle of a Transformers movie? Well that's just too bad.

              >>>for profit

              I'm aware of this "company". It was a sole guy who was working out of his basement. He wasn't getting rich. He was providing a service which I and many other families found useful. Now I can't show Transformers or many other films to my kids. And it's not

              • by dangitman (862676)

                I think this post finally proves to me that you're a nut-case. Not that it wasn't already fairly clear from your previous posts. People who obsess over "naughty words" and "protecting the children" have a screw loose. What you are advocating is much more offensive that 1,000 "fucks" in a movie. And that you are so naive to think that this guy/business is doing it as a public service, and not for profit, just pushes the insanity over the edge.

                It's a real shame, too. Commodore 64s are awesome, and you're sull

            • by TheLink (130905)
              > because the creators wanted to maintain artistic integrity.

              Really? Then that must be the only integrity they're maintaining...

              I see nothing ethically wrong with buying a legit DVD, editing it, then selling the edited version. Especially if you are buying a DVD for each modified DVD you resell.

              It may be illegal, but I don't see it as unethical.

              You have passed the demanded profits to whoever sold the DVDs, and you have added value for whoever is willingly buying them in full knowledge of what they are. I
        • Invite your blind friend over and read the book to him. I wonder what the publisher would say about that! If he's consistent, he will still claim you are violating his rights.

          I agree with your assessment of the sanity of these people.

    • by bmgoau (801508)

      The NYtimes did an interesting article on something similar to this, it was about the exorbitant cost of text to speech devices for the speaking impaired compared to simple consumer solutions like the iphone.

      Heres the article, its quite interesting:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/15/technology/15speech.html [nytimes.com]

    • The admittedly unwieldy equivalent built out of commodity parts is basically a 5-megapixel camera that transfers its data over USB (can be had for under $100 these days), and a netbook (~$300), for a total of ~$400 of hardware. What's the extra $1100 for?

      Unfortunately rip-off pricing is pretty much guaranteed in accessibility devices. Just go compare Kurzweil 1000 [sightandsound.co.uk] with similar commodity scanning apps.

    • What's the extra $1100 for?

      Because they can, of course.

    • Maybe the big picture is that Intel has not been successful, generally, at making products other than processors and chipsets and motherboards.

      Intel had a consumer division which was closed. I don't know the reason for closing the division, but all the Intel consumer products I reviewed had major flaws.

      Right now I'm trying to find a graphics driver for an Intel chipset motherboard. The Intel web site is amazingly complicated to use.

      Generally, Intel employees say they are unhappy with CEO Otellini.
    • by westlake (615356)

      The raw features somehow make the $1500 seem odd.

      The geek can hack out a gadget and call it an aid for the disabled.

      That doesn't mean that any public or private agency will be able to buy one for their clients.

      Without proof that the thing actually works as described and has real and substantial benefits.

      The first question that needs to be answered is how easy will it be for a visually - and perhaps physically - impaired reader to use the camera.

      I have my own doubts about this one.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @06:33PM (#30052710) Homepage Journal

    The N900 seems like it ought to have enough horsepower to do this job, perhaps slightly slower but I don't see why the device can't be reading and scanning at the same time. N900 has a 5MP, I'm sure a future iPhone will have an acceptable camera... et cetera. I'm curious if there's audio feedback to tell you if you're correctly framing the page.

    • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @06:38PM (#30052768)

      The N900 seems like it ought to have enough horsepower to do this job

      Unfortunately, since an N900 can do other things as well, disability coverage won't pay for it. Insurers demand assistive devices be single-function, even if the devices have to be crippled to comply.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Will it pay for the software, at least? The devices themselves are available as low as $549 (newegg maybe? geeks? I forget, probably the former) without a contract. I imagine you could get one pretty reasonably with a plan. Lots of people have cellphones these days, and it has a keyboard so it could conceivably be made fairly accessible if it isn't already. (not to mention that whole running Linux thing)

        • I believe yes, the software is covered and is similarly expensive. I can't remember which phone it is for, but for one of the high end Nokia phones, a blind friend of mine was showing me some beta software he was testing. It not only did what this Intel device claims to do, but it would also correctly OCR pictures of signs. This is actually a quite a bit more difficult problem given 3D distortions and other imaging issues. It did cost about $1,000 though. One pretty cool thing for blind people was that it c
      • by pky666 (1675924)
        In Canada, the Federal government pays two-thirds of the cost of assistive medical devices, so the companies who manufacture and sell these items automatically triple the prices.
    • I'm curious if there's audio feedback to tell you if you're correctly framing the page.

      I sure hope so...with these figures

      The device won't be speedy: "Intel says it takes about 30 seconds to process each page of text

      I'd sure be pissed to wait 30 seconds only to hear "Page 3 of 7"

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dingen (958134)
      Actually, this isn't even a thing of the future. I know a blind person who already has an application which does exactly this on his Nokia phone. He can use it to read signs on the street, letters in his mailbox and basically any text he captures with the camera on his phone.
    • This is actually already possible on S60 phones, with an app called KNFB Reader. Although it isn't cheap, its a fair bit cheaper than this Intel one.
    • by fastfinge (823794)

      The N82 is already doing this, with software called the KNFB reader. The big issue with porting the KNFB Reader over to other phones is that, while some of them have a 5MP camera, none of them have a good enough flash. I'm not totally clear on why that's an issue, but apparently it is. I keep the phone close enough to the source (book/paper/whatever) that I don't really know why it wants the flash all the time, but it decides to use it in nearly every shot. The only time I didn't hear the flash activate

  • I see this device somehow being turned into something that pirates audio books, or spies on people.
    • How? This is basically a camera that turns text to speech. It doesn't record audio books or anything, and I think it should be well within your rights to have an audio copy of books you own or even library books especially if you can't normally use books due to a disability. And spying on people? Because a blind person is going to go up to someone and digitise something?
      • by Stooshie (993666)
        "... It doesn't record audio books or anything ..." Actually, it does record them to MP3 if you watch the video.
        • But those are not audio books. They are book-books that are converted to audio.
          • by Stooshie (993666)
            "... those are not audio books. They are book-books that are converted to audio ..."

            Eh!?! Is there a difference?
            • by Stooshie (993666)
              Replying to my own post. oh well.

              Even if there is a technical difference. The user hears a book read out, so there is not really a difference as far as the user is concerned!
  • oh, bother. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @06:44PM (#30052828) Journal

    Now we have yet another device waiting to be demonized by the copyright nazis.

    • Putting DRM on a device built for the visually impaired? I don't see it.


      I'm going to hell.
      • by adolf (21054)

        Taking pictures of books, automatically OCR'ing them, while being portable, fairly quick, and having enough space to actually hold a useful volume of works: If you can't see the copyright issue here, then I guess you'll have to wait until some previously-non-digital printed works show up on TPB courtesy of this device for the sheer obviousness of it to shine through.

        I, for one, am all for it. But, then, I'm not the copyright Nazi I was referring to.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @06:47PM (#30052870) Homepage Journal

    This device is a violation, and users will have to pay royalties for a public performance of a copyrighted work.

    #1) You are "copying" (aka pirating), when you take the snapshot.
    #2) The device then produces an audio public performance of the pirated work.

    It's illegal under copyright laws and the DMCA.

    • by aedil (68993)

      Copyright exceptions exist for the purpose of ensuring that people with disabilities can access print materials, etc... Printed works can be presented in alternative specialized formats (and voice rendering is one of those formats) without constituting a copyright violation. Check out bookshare.org... It's largely based on that.

  • by tacarat (696339) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @06:47PM (#30052872) Journal
    Didn't some group sue Amazon over the Kindle's ability to read text out loud? Is Intel next on the hit list due to this? I mean, for $1,500 you could hire some poor, out of work, minstrel to walk around with you and read articles in real time.

    Granted, they are a bit clunkier than what most airlines allow for as carry on luggage items, but still.
    • My Astak EZ-Reader Pro can read aloud some e-book formats.

    • You know, this has the potential to get rather interesting...

      Sony [playstation.com] is being sued by a blind fellow for not making their PS3 ADA compliant. Amazon was threatened [cnet.com] with a lawsuit by the Authors Guild for making their Kindle ADA compliant. Now Intel is taunting the Authors Guild by making a device with the express purpose of giving blind and otherwise visually impaired access to written works.

      • by tacarat (696339)
        That's the one. Thanks. Mod up for informative, please.
      • by aedil (68993)

        The problem with the kindle was largely that the text-to-speech functionality was a mainstream feature they were advertising (albeit in somewhat beta-fashion). In terms of accessibility to enable blind and visually impaired users to read the (otherwise) print materials on the kindle, no copyright violation etc would take place because that is covered under specific exceptions. Of course, the overall inaccessibility of the kindle makes that argument a bit hard to make.

        But with the Intel Reader being market

  • Maybe someone could build a device that lets you download the text of many national newspapers and can do a test-to-speach from that, instead of trying to use a crappy OCR application. Maybe if the sold it for a lot less, say $300, then it would be more affordable for blind people. They may not get many local newspapers, but for the price difference it might be a better fit for their income. It might be good if they could download the text of many books too. Could we interest a large bookseller, like Amazon

    • by Jackazz (572024)
      Have you tried navigating a Kindle without sight? This device was designed from the ground up with accessibility in mind. Tactile buttons that cover all the functions, menus that are spoken or can be enlarged for low vision, and features that help orient the device and take pictures of text when you can't even see.

      Totally different function than just a talking newspaper.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @06:59PM (#30053040) Homepage Journal

    I'm looking forward to someone unlocking the reader SW from its Linux-driven dedicated HW. I'd like my webcam to read my books and magazines to me at home.

    • by Narpak (961733)

      I'd like my webcam to read my books and magazines to me at home.

      Make it also wash the dishes and vacuum the house and you got yourself a deal!

    • I'm looking forward to someone unlocking the reader SW from its Linux-driven dedicated HW. I'd like my webcam to read my books and magazines to me at home.

      hg clone https://ocropus.googlecode.com/hg/ [googlecode.com] ocropus

  • I did not RTFA, but doesn't 55 million seem like an inflated figure? (Supposedly the number of people in the U.S. who are visually impaired enough to make use of this device) The U.S. has approximately 300 million people. This means more than 1 in 6 people are visually impaired enough to "make use" of the device. Or they're just lazy.
  • It was too small to see in the article, but I didn't see Braille on the buttons to tell a (True) visually impared person where to touch... Also, If they can't see to read, etc, how can they read the instructions that are on the screen?

    The thought is nice, but I don't think well thought out... Kinda like Braille on the ATM in the drive through lane at the bank, WTF?

    • by tepples (727027)

      Kinda like Braille on the ATM in the drive through lane at the bank, WTF?

      That's for a blind passenger who steps out of the vehicle and uses the ATM.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kidblast (413235)

      The braille on the drive through bank ATMs is because it would be more expensive to create two types of buttons (braille and without) and know ahead of time where the ATM would be installed.

      This was discussed in Freakonomics IIRC.

    • Kinda like Braille on the ATM in the drive through lane at the bank, WTF?

      Judging by the way people drive on the Southern California freeways, it makes some sense. In fact, auto manufactures might consider doing the instrument panels on cars destined for this area in Braille.

    • by bendie (1676078)
      They don't have to read the instructions on the screen. Everything on the screen (menu, directions, status, etc) is also spoken out.
    • by Stooshie (993666)
      "... how can they read the instructions that are on the screen?" The instructions are read out too!
    • by fastfinge (823794)

      The purpose of the braille is so blind folks in cabs can withdraw cash. The cabby just needs to pull forward a little more, so you can reach it from the back seat instead of the front.

  • This seems like crazy overkill. Benetech's program BookShare already provides the content in a format that traditional disabled accessible devices can handle. Plus it's all free for the content. This is probably the single most socially beneficial exception to the copyright law operating on the books right now. Any disabled person can have access to any copyrighted content at no charge through this program. Totally amazing:

    http://www.benetech.org/literacy/bookshare.shtml [benetech.org]

    • by aedil (68993)

      Your claim that bookshare is 'at no charge' isn't entirely accurate. Bookshare does charge a fee to its members, except for some specific user classes such as k12 students who have a reading disability.

    • by fastfinge (823794)

      Incorrect. Bookshare only offers service to United States citizens, who are currently living inside the United States. Americans outside the country, or those of us who aren't Americans, are out of luck. One would assume this device will be sold internationally.

  • I'm not too sure about the various degrees of visual impairment that would reduce visual acuity to the point where reading is no longer feasible, but...

    On the face of the matter, it seems someone ludicrous, or at the least ironic, that the device relies on a visually impaired individuals using a visual interface to interpret documents they cannot read. If they're impaired such that they cannot read, then will they easily be able to tell that the document is in focus? That the document is even entirely in
  • Screw that, they'll be an iPhone app that does this in about two months that also makes fart noises.

  • Blind Person: "Where's that dang little camera thing?"
    (feels around until they find it)
    Blind Person: "Where's that paper?"
    (find the paper and unfolds some pages)
    (Takes a picture of the paper upside down)
    Reader: "Blah duh mup plump fluget..."
    • by fastfinge (823794)

      Every OCR software I've ever heard of, including RTK, Finereader, Scansoft, and several open source projects, can cope with text that is upside down, sideways, or crooked. Just so long as it's all in the frame. I think perhaps the light versions of Omni Reader that come with consumer scanners won't do this, but it's because the software has been crippled to make a "light" version, not because it can't.

  • I have just got a proprietry scanner/ocr solution at work. I am limited in time but did investigate an open source solution for linux. But all i seemed to come accross was that "no OCR touches the commercial stuff". Indeed, some said, it can still be cheaper on a word/accuracy perspective to outsource to a typing service.

    What I have done is use the Searchable PDF output and used linux to 1. Produce a gif thumb of the PDF, and 2.) Use pdf2text to put in a db.

    The slowness frustrates me, I have much work
  • Just wait until the book publishers get wind of this.

    I predict pointless IP lawsuits up the ass :(

    Book publishers already claim using a screen reader for the blind is a copyright violation, text-to-voice on ebooks being illegal (I hope Amazon squashes that lawsuit instead of settles), and bypass some form of access control that doesn't exist and thus is a DMCA violation too.

    And this is why we can't have nice things

  • Surely umpires and referees everywhere will weep tears of gratitude.

  • I am happy you published my story, but pissed off that you removed the back link to the original http://bblogic.com/showthread.php?t=733 [bblogic.com], instead you back linked to some other persons blog WTF?
  • There's no iPhone app for this?

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