Intel on Tuesday introduced a new e-book reader, one designed for the visually impaired, which can read digital files of books aloud, as well as capture images from printed material via a 5-megapixel digital camera and similarly read the text aloud at a variety of listening speeds.
Additionally, the Intel Reader, as its called, has a 4" display that will show the text in large fonts, for those impaired, and not blind. The $1,499 device may seem expensive when compared to the Kindle 2, which can also read aloud, though in a robotic voice, but this new device is designed specifically as a reader for the visually impaired, as opposed to a consumer device.
In fact, you may recall that the Kindle 2's "Read-to-Me" feature, brought it criticism by The Authors Guild, saying it poached on audiobook sales, despite its obvious negatives when compared to professionally read audtiobooks. Eventually Amazon.com backed down to the Guild and added functionality that would allow publishers to decide on a title by title basis whether they want Text-to-Speech enabled for any particular title.
Obviously, with its more narrow focus, the Intel Reader should not run afoul of this sort of criticism.
The Intel Reader will be sold by resellers such as CTL, Howard Technology Solutions and HumanWare. Intel also makes a "docking station" (the Intel Portable Capture Station) that can hold and power the device while it is scanning a large number of pages. The company will introduce a U.K. version of the Reader in a few days and plans to roll it out in other countries as well, with localized voices (yes, the U.K. version will have a British accent).
The Intel Reader has an Intel Atom CPU and 2 GB of storage (flash RAM). It can store about 500,000 pages of text or 600 scanned book pages. With a fully charged battery, the Reader can read continuously for four hours.
Ben Foss, who lead the project, noted that there are exceptions from copyright law for the visually and otherwise disabled, that will allow users to make copies of books, as well as access other repositories such as The Gutenberg Project. Interestingly, as a side note, Foss grew up with dyslexia, giving him a personal interest in the project's success.