myReader Take Two: The Continuing Story of an Autoreader
Editor's Note: Our series of reviews of HumanWare's myReader represent an example that we want to duplicate with other manufacturers and other products. See this month's Editor's Page for more on this relationship.
In the January 2006 issue of AccessWorld, I evaluated myReader, HumanWare's transportable autoreader. At that time, the concept of capturing a page of text digitally and reformatting it into your choice of viewing styles was new. A year and a half later, more companies are trying it as an assistive technology solution for people with low vision.
In my January 2006 evaluation, I offered ideas for improving the product, and in HumanWare's rejoinder to the article, it said: "Every new technology presents opportunities for improvement and refinement, and the suggestions made by Lee Huffman in his kind review are among those that HumanWare has identified, some of which are already being incorporated into the latest version of myReader." This news was great to hear.
At the July 2006 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Dallas, I met with Jim Halliday, HumanWare's vice president of advocacy, and Vinnie Rappa, its vice president of low vision sales for the U.S. market, who showed me a newer version of myReader. They sent this version to my Huntington, West Virginia, office and asked me for feedback on the changes. The results were published in my January 2007 update article in AccessWorld.
This year, at the Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference in Los Angeles, I spoke with representatives from HumanWare, who again asked me to take a look at the latest updates to myReader. Now officially renamed myReader2, the product has undergone some significant changes that may make it more usable for people with low vision.
According to HumanWare, "as a result of feedback from users," HumanWare has made several changes to the previous version of myReader, resulting in an official name change for the product. Some features have been added and others have been removed in an effort to enhance its usability. The following list identifies these changes, and the remainder of the article focuses on ideas for modifications to existing features and improving the product.
What's New in myReader2?
myReader2 can now capture and store up to 10 pages for later reading; previously, only 1 page at a time could be captured and reformatted for reading. This added functionality allows you to read uninterrupted for a longer time. A new navigation bar that is displayed at the bottom of the screen allows you to move between the stored pages.
Caption: myReader2 displaying text in high-contrast colors.
Reference Page Storage
myReader2 can now store three reference pages for you to save and refer to at other times. These could include pages that you need to refer to quickly, such as frequently used telephone numbers or addresses, a bus schedule, or instructions for taking your daily medicine.
Overview has been added to the view options to allow you to navigate through the stored pages using the navigation bar displayed at the bottom of the page.
The font size of the menus that are used to set your display and personal settings has been increased, and the layout of the menus has been simplified.
The Control Panel
The control panel that is used to control the functionality of myReader has been redesigned, and the buttons have been relabeled, so that the Live button now says Live. The Read/View button is now the Views button, and the Start button is now the Capture button. The Capture button and the Views button now have a line drawn between them to help users remember the relationship between them.
A magnifying glass-shaped icon now replaces the rectangle icon as the position indicator. This icon appears on the screen when you are in Overview or Page View. It shows where the focus is on the page and lets you select a specific area of a page to zoom in on.
Clearer Messages and Prompts
The messages and prompts on the screen have been simplified.
A screen saver-type feature has been added. If no control is activated for 30 minutes, a screen saver appears. The default screen saver is the HumanWare logo, but you can store your own screen saver, such as a picture of a family member or one from a recent vacation.
Changed and Removed Features
Some of myReader's less frequently used features were removed, and some existing features were changed to meet the needs of customers. The removed and changed features are as follows:
The Image Markers feature; Page View autoscroll feature; Margins; and Next features, available in the Viewing Mode, have been removed, as has the Freeze feature, available in the Live mode. Activating and deactivating the Manual Focus feature in the Live mode now requires you to hold down the Views button for two seconds, instead of pressing it once.
Now you can capture a new page only when in Overview. If you press Capture in any other view, the view is first changed to Overview before the Capture occurs. Pressing the Live button while in the Live Mode no longer exits the Live Mode.
For myReader owners who upgrade their current model to the latest software, a menu option has been provided to restore some of the removed features. The option is Classic Controls. The Classic Controls feature reactivates the following features:
- The Page View (Viewing mode) autoscrolling feature.
- The Page View (Viewing mode) margins feature.
- The Page View (Viewing mode) Next feature.
- The Live mode Freeze Image feature.
Ideas for Modification and Improvement
I would like HumanWare to consider modifying one feature and making two product improvements during its next series of updates to myReader.
First, when capturing multiple pages, you now must capture one page, then turn the Speed Dial to select the next location for the second page to be saved, then capture that page, and so on. At times, during testing, I forgot to move the Speed Dial to select the location of the next page to be saved and inadvertently saved over the previously saved page, thus deleting it. I then had to go back and resave the pages correctly.
The process of capturing multiple pages would be easier if the Speed Dial did not need to be moved to select the location of the page to be captured. myReader2 could automatically advance to the next location, and you would simply position the next page to be saved and press the Capture button. The Speed Dial could be used to override the automatic location selection manually if you wanted to do so.
myReader2's 15-inch flat-panel display screen can be raised and lowered and tilted forward and back to make it more ergonomically suited to a particular person. It would be even better for the screen to swivel left and right and rotate to Portrait and Landscape views, as does the screen of HumanWare's SmartView Xtend. This would provide a great deal more flexibility for people, especially those who also use the screen for a PC display.
While I understand that myReader is a reading machine that is best suited to reformatting and displaying pages of text, using it to spot read or read three-dimensional objects in the Live mode is an important function needed by people with low vision. The Live mode's display characteristics need improvement. Increased focus, clarity, contrast, and color presentation would make the product more useful for day-to-day tasks other than reading text.
The Bottom Line
The updates and changes to myReader, especially the multiple-page capture, reference pages, and modified control panel, are significant and should enhance the user's experience. The removal of less frequently used features should also help make myReader2 easier to use.
The downside to myReader2 is the poor-quality image displayed in the Live mode. When in Live mode, text is fuzzy and not in sharp focus. Although the quality of the image can often be improved by switching to the high-contrast colors, many people like to view items in live color best. Some items that I looked at in Live mode, including instructions on cans of spray cleaner, were barely legible, and the display was made worse by switching to high-contrast colors. This is an area that HumanWare should focus on improving for its next series of updates.
"We want to thank AccessWorld for publishing these product reviews in such a fair and constructive way. They are a great service to the industry, and much appreciated. The input from AFB's technical team is always highly considered, and usually incorporated when HumanWare designs or improves future versions of the products reviewed. myReader2 is an excellent example of this, and we hope the market can tell that we are listening."
- When developing the multipage storage feature, we produced several versions of the user interface and conducted extensive user testing to evaluate the merits of each version. We found that although some users would benefit if the page location automatically advanced, many users became confused. Therefore, we implemented the system where the page location is manually advanced. We will keep a close watch on this feature to determine whether it needs to be modified in the future.
- "myReader2 is fundamentally designed for people with low vision who want to read. It has a Live Mode, which is essentially a CCTV mode for spot viewing and reading activities. HumanWare produces a line of SmartView CCTVs for people whose primary need is to view photos and spot read other materials. However, CCTVs are not conducive for extended reading activities, whereas myReader2 is all about reading for extended periods. Since myReader was first released, the Live (CCTV) Mode image quality has been significantly improved, and most users tell us that they are now satisfied with the quality. However, we are conscious of the desire to further improve the image quality, and this will be a priority when future versions of myReader are developed. When talking about a CCTV mode, however, it is important to keep in mind that myReader users have many more ways to read, explore, and view materials than they have with a standard CCTV. Because of these powerful advantages, myReader users spend a fraction of their time in the Live (CCTV) Mode. Effective reading involves speed, comprehension and endurance, all of which are benefits of a reading device like myReader2."
Manufacturer: HumanWare, 1 Expo Place, P.O. Box 3044, Christchurch, New Zealand; phone: +64-3-384-4555; e-mail: <email@example.com>; web site: <www.humanware.com>.
U.S. Office: 175 Mason Circle, Concord, CA 94520; phone: 800-722-3393; e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Take Me to myReader: An Evaluation of HumanWare's Transportable Auto-Reader by Lee Huffman
An Update on HumanWare's Transportable Auto-reader by Lee Huffman
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