Follow-Up: Using a Raspberry Pi Computer to Read to the Blind

Back in December 2012, I wrote a blog post about some Autodesk employees using a Raspberry Pi computer to read to the blind. To this day, that blog post gets questions about how they did it. So I decided to write up a follow-up.

Here was the idea. With one camera and one speaker, a Raspberry Pi Computer can be used as an assistant to read a book to the blind. Usually the blind have to read Braille by touching their fingers to the page. This traditional approach requires that they obtain a special copy of each desired book instead of a standard one off the shelf. If they have this machine, the camera can take a photograph of a book's page, the application installed in the Pi computer can translate the photo to an article, and then the application can read the article aloud through a speaker. This new approach opens up a world of books to the blind that are not available in Braille.

Employee, Norman Hu, worked with his peers in Shanghai on completing the project. They created this 4-minute video:


Senior Software Engineer, Quill Chen, provided me with the recipe:


So here are the ingredients:

  • Raspberry Pi

    A Raspberry Pi is a small and affordable computer that you can use to learn programming.

  • Teseract

    Tesseract is an open source optical character reader.

  • eSpeak

    eSpeak is an open source software speech synthesizer for English and other languages.

We are very proud of what these employes accomplished. When we held our internal contest to see what our employees could do with Raspberry Pies, we had not envisioned such a worthy project. Well done, team (Norman Hu, Quill Chen, Gavin Jiang, Christopher Zhang).

Reading aloud is alive in the lab.