People who have sight deficiencies have been able to use some e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle with its Text to speech functionality and audio books for content. Although the Kindle has failed to enter the public education system due to the fact it is not totally blind friendly. There has been some technologies we have written about in the past such as the Intel Reader, which costs $1,499. The device assists people who are blind, dyslexic, or have weak vision. Intel estimates that there are as many as 55 million people in the U.S. who could use its device. This new E-Reader will give many visually impaired people a new freedom to read books, magazines, and newspapers that would otherwise be inaccessible. Users hold the Reader a few feet above the paper they want to read; it snaps a photo, and within seconds converts the page to text, which it can then display in a large font or read out loud.
So it seems some e-readers and other devices can assist sight challenged people to interact with technology, but no tablets, until now. A New piece of hardware called GraVVITAS (Graphics Viewer using Vibration, Interactive Touch, Audio and Speech), has a touch-sensitive tablet PC at its core and uses vibration and sounds to guide the user around a diagram. The unit has small external vibrating motors that attach to a user’s fingers via a glove. The motors buzz when an object displayed on the screen is touched. Right now the technology is being tested by visually impaired student. Although it is limited to raised shapes, and textures are embossed on special paper, it is an extremely costly process that can take months to produce a textbook.The sound is offered with full 3D surround sound on the unit to assist in the navigation.
GraVVITAS was developed in Australia by IT wizard Kim Mariott and PHD Cagtatay Goncu with partners Vision Australia. The technology is rather expensive to assemble, costing around $2500. They mention that the device could possibly come down if they had a firm corporate patron. In the meantime they have applied for a hefty grant offered by Australian Research Council Linkage Projects fund.
It seems like a good idea in this piece of technology, but if it takes months to assemble a textbook, will it be a viable device to assist people with vision problems?
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.