Wednesday, 11 July 2012

First look: Readit Wand

Recently I saw a demonstration of a unique piece of equipment designed to enable accessibility of printed material - the Readit Wand. Text can be enlarged on a computer screen or read aloud through speakers or headphones.

The Readit Wand in action
The Readit Wand stands over a book with an arm that extends over the page. The arm contains a camera which photographs the page. Optical character recognition (OCR) software then 'recognises' the text, which can be viewed almost instantaneously on the screen, and read aloud.

The text display is highly customisable. Options include:
  • magnification level
  • font
  • text and background colour
  • various layouts (original, fit window, single line, single column)
The read aloud options include various voices, and the ability to speed up or slow down the delivery.

When a book or document has been 'recognised' the results can be saved in a native format which preserves any pictures as images, but converts the words to text. There are also various export options including Microsoft Word, rich text format, PDF, plain text and mp3.

The software can also work with documents that are already in electronic format, so for instance it can enlarge and read aloud a Word document or PDF file.

It was a very impressive demonstration showing that:
  • the system is very easy to use,
  • can cope with books that won't lie flat
  • and works intelligently at a speed that should make it very usable.
The Disability and Dyslexia Support Service at the University of Sheffield will be ordering two or three wands and a site license for the software. We will be a trial site, working with the company to enable the system across the campus.

More information on the Readit Wand can be found on the VisionAid Technologies website.



  1. Sounds awesome, does it have any limitations? I have been playing with Google Goggles and that struggles with very basic text on Ariel size 14.

    1. The Wand camera recognises text down to 6pt in size.



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