John Galloway likes a powerful new mobile tool for working with text – VOICEYE
VOICEYE is a mobile app to help those who struggle with text. They can carry it around on a smartphone in their pocket, and use the phone's camera to read a special VOICEYE code (like a QR or barcode) embedded in a document which transfers the text from the document to the phone. There it can either be read using preferred combinations of fonts and colour schemes, or listened to using text-to-speech if the phone has that installed.
It's a very impressive application which has won a 2012 BETT Award.
The process begins when the creator uses a bolt-on to Microsoft's Word, which generates the VOICEYE code that can carry up to two pages of text, around 800 words. This code can be placed anywhere on the page, although as this is a system that the blind or partially-sighted can use it makes sense to be consistent, always in the top right hand corner, for instance so they know where to find it unassisted.
A user needs to download the free app, then simply point their phone's camera at the VOICEYE code until a bleep is heard to confirm successful recognition. The document is now on the phone, and can be accessed in any way desired. You can change the size of the writing, and the colour combination to make it easier to see. Or you can have it read aloud. As it is on a web-connected device there is also the option to use Google Translate so that the language can be changed, and even have that spoken if the device is capable.
As the code itself is an image (a bitmap file) it can, with a bit of cutting and pasting, be transferred into other formats, such as presentations and PDFs. It can even be read off a screen. So it doesn't have to be confined to a printed document; it could just as easily be included on a web page.
What VOICEYE does is to combine several existing technologies to benefit those who have difficulty with reading, whether that is because of problems with their eyesight, a recognised difficulty such as dyslexia, or even if the user has limited English. It cleverly pulls together Word, coding, smartphone cameras, display options, speech to text and even tools on the web to create a handy, ever present aid.
The cost is all with the creator, which may inhibit widespread take-up, but as an aid to understanding texts for those with a range of special needs this is a discrete, flexible, way of doing it. VOICEYE could provide a quick, neat, straightforward way to easily broaden the audience for all sorts of information.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 4
Ease of use 4
Value for money 5
Combination of add-on to Microsoft's Word (to convert up to to 800 words to a VOICEYE code, £350 from Forcetenco), with a free app for mobile devices which can read the code to import the text into the device for reading any time and anywhere.
Forcetenco Assistive Technology Solutions
6 Beckley Parade, Leatherhead Road, Great Bookham, Surrey, KT23 4RQ
Tel: 01372 450887
Free download for apps:
John Galloway works as advisory teacher for ICT/SEN and inclusion in Tower Hamlets, London, and as a freelance writer and consultant. He is the author of Harnessing Technology for Every Child Matters and Personalised Learning and runs his own blog.