Like an invention out of Harry Potter, except that Harry’s would use a quill

When I heard this story from Swedish Radio, it struck me as the sort of object that would exist in the imaginary world of Harry Potter. Raymond's bad translation follows:

Pen can help dyslexics

With today's cheaper and cheaper microelectronics, it becomes possible for young inventors to produce new products without a lot of resources. A new idea for a smart-pen for speech synthesis and voice recognition is an example of this.

The pen intended primarily for dyslexics has been produced by Johan Strömbom, a student at the Chalmers University of Technology. It is a pen which produces speech from writing, and which converts your speech into text, explains Johan Strömbom.

"One can read in text from a piece of paper, which is then heard in a headset, also one can speak text into the headset and have it written out," says Johan Strömbom.

He was inspired to invent the pen by his mother who teaches dyslexics. The pen has been nominated for an inventor's prize at the Technical Fair in October.

Of course, the Harry Potter version would be a quill instead of a pen, and it wouldn't need a headset. Or batteries.

Voice recognition also has a lot of promise for people other than dyslexics. Imagine if you could take a voice recording and send it through a recognizer to produce a transcript. I can read Swedish and German much better than I can listen to it, and having a transcript of a news report as it happens would improve my understanding tremendously.

[Raymond is currently away; this message was pre-recorded.]

Comments (4)
  1. Manip says:

    I have trouble buying that… I mean Microsoft’s Speech recognition lags on my 2.8Ghz machine with 1GB of RAM, what chance will it have on whatever processor they can fit inside a pen body? Not to mention the entire scanner that reads text in (from the page? or as it’s written?).

    I would also like to add that it is not very functional if you think about it. I mean you’re sitting in the library writing up some essay and the pen is talking to you? RI–GH–T that won’t be annoying at all will it.

    One thing dyslexics don’t want is to stand out in a crowd (in relation to writing). If you are going to get a pen that talks to you, why not just get a giant red stick that glues to your head that reads: "I’m stupid"?

    Not that I’m saying speech recognition isn’t extremely helpful while proof-reading stuff in Microsoft Word (dyslexic or otherwise).

  2. Andreas Haeber says:

    Manip: That’s not a very big problem – just use a headset… a little mini-jack plug shouldn’t be impossible to add to a pen.

  3. Andreas Johansson says:

    It is in swedish but it has an picture of the pen.

    It uses a headset so it is safe to use in the library for reading, maybe not to have it write for you… ;)

  4. Manip says:

    Well the headset is a good idea… Having ‘ISpell’ down the side – not such a great idea…

    I was considering it and I see another problem, dyslexics can’t learn to read because they have an under-formed area of the brain where they ‘understand’ sounds of words. If you use the pen instead of practising, this area of the brain will remain under-developed and in fact the pen will only make things worse, not better.

    Really the only cure to dyslexia is not magic pens, it’s not coloured card, it’s not psychical activity <shudder> it is good old fashioned practise. Instead of taking dyslexic kids and side tracking them with crazy ideas that don’t work you could have them read a lot more than their ‘normal’ peers and write a lot more too.

    Writing won’t improve much without help but reading, by just reading will improve all on its own.

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