Sunday, June 25, 2006

AdvantEdge Reader and Scanner: Text to Speech in a Portable Format


AdvantEdge Reader is an assistive technology system that allows print from documents, books, and magazines to be accessed using text to speech. The system was developed by The Assistive Technology Center in Sacramento, California. The developer is Robert Leblond who has had the mission for the past two decades to develop computer technology to benefit individuals who are blind or have reading disabilities such as dyslexia. He has developed an integrated and portable scanner and text reader.

AdvantEdge Reader” combines adaptive technologies to create the pocket scanner and reader. This system could prove to be the next step for independence for student to achieve more independence and mobility. Instead of having to go to the computer lab or resource room to use table top scanners and desktop computers that currently have OCR and text-to-speech software programs, the student can stay in the classroom and scan and read materials as needed.

Leblond was a pioneer in the field of Braille transcription using scanners and faxes in the 1980’s. The AdvantEdge system combines current reading technology for easier, more portable use. The operation is fast and simple and involves inserting the material to be read into a portable scanner. The sheet is recognized and converted to text with OCR application and a text reader application automatically reads the material using current high quality speech with AT&T Natural Voices™ .

The AdvantEdge system used and modified the existing Visioneer strobe scanner, which is a tiny, portable scanner. The modified strobe scanner was installed onto a hand held computer called SmallTalk and a recognition program and hardware driver were added to complete the package. The screen reading software used “Window Eyes”, by GW Micro. Leblond’s philosophy for the creation of the system was to take existing technology and combine and tweak to improve it. This has been a successful approach as opposed to competitors who are attempting to design systems from the ground up.

Along with being the first portable scan and read system, the AdvantEdge Reader is also a full Windows XP computer. It has a docking cable that gives it desktop computer capabilities. The docking cable connects to an external monitor, printer, network, keyboard, firewire devices, and other external features. The Reader also includes Bluetooth and Wireless LAN technology.

Product Specifications of the AdvantEdge system include:

  • SmallTalk dimensions--The Small-Talk Ultra is 4.9 inches long, 3.4 inches wide, and 0.9 inches thin, and weighs a mere 14 ounces.
  • Strobe Scanner--The Strobe Scanner is 1.5 by 2 by 11 inches and weighs 11 ounces.

The impact of this technology for students with vision and reading disabilities is major. The current cost of $3000 for one system is high and beyond the reach for many individuals and school districts, however the price will come down along with new development of systems that are smaller, faster and easier to use.

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