Friday, December 18, 2009

Luxury Or Necessity?

Having the Intel Reader at my disposal for several weeks did feel like a little luxury. Passing it on to a colleague yesterday definitely stirred up some separation anxiety.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ease it brought back to recipe reading, and the angst it took away from the mail and the (dreaded) form. I used it as my own private teleprompter, to practice and give prompts, for a speech. I used it for reading printed documents, on a daily basis; I actually cleaned up the piles of paper I wanted to read, but had not quite figured out how – until now.

The Intel Reader passed two of my critical technology tests. It helped me feel like I could read anything, and it made me feel good about doing it. It also passed my usability test, with flying colors, which means: if I can operate this device…anyone can.

I, like Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, got better at Intel Reading each day. I originally thought I would be flipping through the pages of Vogue and the New Yorker, but this was not as easy as it looked. There were some articles that I photographed again and again, before I got a readable shot. Newspapers were equally as difficult, clearly a skill to be acquired over time.

I did take a few books off the shelf and read excerpts from a couple of them, once read by my eyes. This, for some reason, I excelled at; however, it also gave me a real appreciation for the Capture Station, an accessory available with the Intel Reader, for photographing entire books (without breaking them apart).

So now I will decide which category does the Intel Reader belong: luxury or necessity? At $1,500, and in the month of December, it can only come from one place…Santa, are you listening?

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Intel Reader Takes Form

I like my font big and bold (about 2 inches high) and at eye level; in this format I can read just about anything. Well, then again, I could not exactly call this reading. Let’s say, in this format, I could identify one word at a time, slowly. For me, “listening” is the new “reading.” It is far more enjoyable and, definitely, more efficient to hear printed words spoken, than to undergo the arduous process of deciphering words, which sometimes appear to be moving or broken. It can be like reading a book under water.

A few days ago, a former colleague asked if I would write a recommendation for grad school. I was happy to do it until she handed me the (dreaded) form. I am not fond of forms, especially the instructions about how to fill out the form. So I decided to take a picture of it with the Intel Reader and have it read me the instructions, where I learned that I could answer the questions on a separate page. I listened to each question and answered it in a word document in my computer, printed it, attached it, and voila, another form bites the dust.

Stay tuned for …Intel Teleprompter.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Intel Reader Is My Sous Chef

There are many traits embedded in my DNA. One of my best inheritances is the joy of cooking. My passion for the food experience begins with the thought, the prep, then moves through the process, the aromas, the taste, and ends with a great sense of satisfaction.

The cooking gene was dominant in my father, who passed to me a penchant for turning Sundays into culinary events. He would fill the day with food and football, running in and out of the kitchen, so as never to miss a touchdown or a Hail Mary Pass, while garlic and herbs wafted about the house.

My mother’s genetics in the kitchen were a bit more recessive, but none the less, she instilled in me an early interest in the delicious chemistry of baking cakes and cookies. Instead of giving me a requested Easy Bake Oven at the age of 8, she got me started with my own set of cookbooks, baking the real thing.

My joy appeared to be in jeopardy, when my vision declined below the acuity required for cookbook reading. Of course, I did not put the cookbooks on the shelf without a fight. I tried magnifiers. I tried funky glasses. I typed recipe favorites into my computer and made the font very large. I pulled up recipes on the Internet and ran, back and forth, from kitchen to computer, measuring and mixing, one step at a time. I became very good at memorizing and improvisation but had to cut back on the baking, because the chemistry of sugar with butter and flour with baking soda requires strict adherence to measurement.

Cut to now.

The Intel Reader is my Sous Chef; it photographed a bunch of my favorites like Apple Cheesecake Tart, the best Banana Yogurt Bread on earth, Zebra Shortbread and Chocolate Decadence Cake.

Hearing my recipes, converted to speech by the Intel reader, was like being reborn. It works like a charm…a cup of this, a tablespoon of that. I can stop and start the reading with the push of a button, or go back and review with the push of another. Some recipes are formatted perfectly, while others require a bit of toggling between ingredients and instructions. Sometimes the pronunciation is funny, in which case I look at it in the screen (zoomed to big letters), or listen to the spelling by holding down the “ok” button. I have to admit, sticky fingers may be a potential hazard; remember, the Intel Reader is not dishwasher safe.
I think this is another one of those things that happens to be good for me, but really could be better for everyone. Last week I watched a segment of Martha Stewart and one of her guests was a Wall Street Journal reporter who brought a new digital recipe reader. I watched with intense anticipation, waiting for it to speak, but there was no voice: this ‘reader’ required you to read to yourself. Isn’t that so last year?

Coming next…how I used the Intel Reader with forms and meeting notes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mastering the Mail with Intel Reader

Every day, since I’ve had temporary custody of the Intel Reader, I’ve tackled my daily delivery of mail, with, almost, glee. Truth be known, reading mail was never something I did well, not even with 20 / 20 vision.

It’s one of those embarrassing things: the stigma of severe mail aversion. I know it’s dangerous to say I’m cured, but, for eight consecutive mail days, I’ve identified each piece and dealt with it.

Thanks to the Intel Reader! For me, a little like mail rehab, I photograph the envelope first, then the contents. Works very well on postcards, which I can’t usually even figure out where they’re from. No intense concentration necessary to read a page or two, I just listen to page after page and toss the majority of junk, eliminating the build up of mail.

It is the freedom of speech!

Coming next…the joy of cooking with Intel.