January 2007 Issue  Volume 8  Number 1

Evaluation Update

An Update on myReader, HumanWare's Transportable Auto Reader

In the January 2006 issue of AccessWorld, I evaluated myReader, Humanware's transportable auto reader. At that time, the concept of capturing a page of text digitally and reformatting it into your choice of viewing styles was new. Nearly a year later, a few other 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 was great to hear.

At this year's 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 the newest version of myReader. They sent a new version to my Huntington, West Virginia, office and asked me for feedback on the changes to myReader.

The following is an overview of the changes I observed in myReader since the January 2006 article in AccessWorld.

1. The live viewing area has been increased in the new version of myReader. In the previous version, the viewing area was approximately 2 9/16 inches wide and 2 inches long; this area is now approximately 4 1/4 inches wide and 3 1/4 inches long, which may add functionality.

2. The camera angle has been repositioned and is now aimed toward the bottom of the viewing area, which corresponds to the bottom of a page of text. With this improvement, you no longer have to bend up and push back a sheet of paper to read or sign the bottom line in Live Mode.

3. The Live Mode displays higher magnification levels than in the previous version. The problem is that as the magnification level increases, black text changes to a bluish color, and a yellow cast appears around it. Also, as the level of magnification increases in the Live Mode, the more out of focus text becomes, although it always remains legible. This problem seems to be due to the nature of the newer digital zoom technology. However, the older optical zoom technology that is used in many traditional desktop closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) requires much heavier components and would therefore reduce the portability of myReader. Like most other technology, digital zoom technology will most likely improve over time and, I hope, resolve these problems.

4. The locator box, which is used in the Viewing Mode to find the area where you would like to begin reading, now stays on the screen longer and becomes more highly magnified than in the previous version. This change is beneficial to people who need to have higher magnification to see the outline of a page of text.

5. There has also been improvement in the automatic scrolling feature for reading a captured document. In the previous version of myReader, there was a good bit of shaking or flickering of letters as the words moved across the page. Now this problem has been greatly reduced, but there is still shaking and flickering of the letters in the low-magnification settings. Most people with low vision, however, would need magnification higher than this, so it would most likely not interfere with their reading.

6. By pressing the Next/Stop button, you can stop the automatic scrolling by the press of a button, rather than by rotating the Speed Dial.

7. There also seems to be some improvement in the way myReader captures color images, such as pictures.

8. The Brightness button, which is located on the front of the 15-inch monitor, now provides greater screen adjustability than did the previous version.

9. When operating in split-screen mode with a PC, myReader's picture is now fully displayed within myReader's section of the screen. In particular, the Reading Mode layouts are formatted to fit fully within myReader's section of the screen, while the on-screen menu is always displayed using the full screen.

10. The split-screen position is now adjustable with 25%/75%, 33%/67%, 50%/50%, 67%/33%, and 75%/25% settings, instead of only the 50%/50% setting in the previous version. There is also an Off setting that disables the split-screen display, so pressing the footswitch toggles the display between the full-screen myReader and the full-screen PC.

11. Both horizontal and vertical splits are available, and the position of the PC display can be set to the top or bottom (with a horizontal split) or left or right (with a vertical split).

12. Previously, the only video modes that were supported were 640x480, 800x600, and 1024x768 at 75 Herz. Now, 640x480, 800x600, and 1024x768 at 60 Herz are also supported. In addition, most other common video modes are now supported, and myReader now automatically adjusts to accommodate a laptop's screen.

13. Now, myReader's lights are automatically switched off (after a time delay) when a full-screen PC image or an external camera image is displayed. The time delay can be set, and the lights-off feature can be disabled.

14. If the PC is in an incompatible mode, pressing the footswitch now displays a message showing what the mode is and stating that it is incompatible. If the PC's video mode changes while myReader is displaying a PC image, a diagnostic message is displayed, and myReader automatically goes back to the PC display after it has checked that the new mode is compatible.

15. Now, visual arrows appear in the Word Mode that show the direction of reading. With only one word on the screen at a time, it was sometimes difficult to determine whether the text was going forward or backward. The arrows are a solution to this problem.

Text reformatting and digital zoom technology are still fairly new in CCTV-type devices, and there are still improvements to be made. The changes to myReader show that HumanWare is listening to feedback from its customers and professionals in the field of low vision. Change and progress can take time, but the changes to the new version of myReader show HumanWare's effort to make a product that better meets the needs of its customers.

Product Information

Product: myReader.

Manufacturer: HumanWare, 1 Expo Place, P.O. Box 3044, Christchurch, New Zealand; phone: +64-3-384-4555; e-mail: <info@humanware.com>; web site: <www.humanware.com>.

U.S. Office: 175 Mason Circle, Concord, CA 94520; phone: 800-722-3393; e-mail: <us.sales@humanware.com>

Price: $4,995.

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Take Me to myReader: An Evaluation of HumanWare by Lee Huffman

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