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about the Zoom-Ex

This morning I saw the thing that will change my life forever.

The web site says it is a single device that does three things: high-speed scanning and OCR; reads the book out loud; and magnifies the book for people with low vision. If a person needs it, there is a fourth option: a camera which can be attached for capture of what is on a blackboard, which is then put onto a computer screen for close-up viewing. It is the Zoom-Ex from ABIsee.

If it sounds too good to be true, it's not. The best part is that the scanner works with the book lying face-up; so the table or desk takes most of the weight of the book. And it's portable. There is no power cable needed--it takes its power from the computer.

The camera is mounted on a post which is about a foot high. At the bottom of the post are two legs that spread out into an L shape. The material to be scanned goes inside the L shape. If the book is small, both pages can be scanned. If it is large, one side can be tipped up or simply moved outside the scanning area so that only a single page is scanned. The rep tried it both ways to see if the effect was better either way, and it did not seem to make a difference. We used two sample books that I had previously scanned on the OpticBook 3600. One was a small book; and the OpticBook had cut off the text near the binding. The Zoom-Ex did not cut it off. The other was my huge textbook for my Old Testament course which I will take this fall. I wanted to see if it was possible to scan a thousand page book which was nearly the size of letter-size paper. It scanned very well, especially considering the fact that nothing was done to perfect any settings.

The legs fold up and the camera folds over the leg assembly for carrying. This would allow me to work easily with reference materials in the library. I could even set it up in class and scan handouts. I'm quite impressed with the scan time: three seconds to scan a page and about three seconds for OCR!

The only drawback for me is the use of proprietary software. It saves files in text format, and it does not preserve page breaks. Since I load books in Word and often read on the braille display, I consider this a disadvantage. It supposedly will save in PDF format; and what I don't know is whether the PDF files would then be convertible to some format with page breaks... Since it has its own speech output, I would mute JAWS within the program. I don't know if I could use the braille display for reading. If so, that would solve this whole problem. There may be other ways to solve it that I don't know about yet.

The drawback is minor in my opinion. The advantages of pain reduction, portability, and increased scanning time are tremendous. I am extremely likely to buy and keep the OpticBook as a back-up unit.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 2nd, 2007 02:07 am (UTC)
This sounds like something I wouldbe interested in looking more into as well. It sounds absoultely wonderful!

the Phoenix
Aug. 2nd, 2007 02:15 am (UTC)
where to get more info
Aug. 2nd, 2007 02:08 am (UTC)
Interesting. I think that would be cool to see.
Aug. 2nd, 2007 10:56 am (UTC)
And also to afford! LOL
Aug. 2nd, 2007 02:40 am (UTC)
This is very exciting! I wonder if they will demo in Canada. I would be curious to know how it handles colourful text and use with a braille display. I would like to find a quick way to convert books to braille for substiute teaching. Combined with the 360-degree portable CCTV this sounds like a combination of exactly what I'd be looking for. The big question is how usable it would be in an environment like substitute teaching or a classroom.

I will definitely be looking into this more. Thanks for the post!
Aug. 2nd, 2007 03:20 am (UTC)
Wow. That sounds like a wonderful piece of technology! I hope it helps make reading a lot easier for you. (what you have to go through to read something that doesn't come in braille sounds like a lot of work to me!)
Aug. 2nd, 2007 03:39 am (UTC)
It is a lot of work... I remember being without a way to read, and all the stuff in braille was stuff I was either done with or not interested in... My parents were too busy to read much; or they got tired in the middle... Now I can read anything anytime if I'm willing to work. I do a lot of scanning for people who don't have scanners, too... There is a site called Bookshare that takes donated scans, and I do a lot of scanning for it.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 2nd, 2007 10:37 am (UTC)
capturing from the board
I think there are actually several things that do this.
Aug. 2nd, 2007 01:57 pm (UTC)
Re: capturing from the board
There are many portable CCTV models that hook up to a computer and can display information from chalkboards, whiteboards, overheads, etc. on a laptop screen. Most of them aren't all that portable compared to what this is like, though.
Aug. 2nd, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)
Sounds very cool! If it does save them as pdf's, a program like Abbyy or something could be used to do OCR on the pdf and convert it to Word. When I've done this, Abbyy not only preserved page breaks but hyperlinks as well. This thing does sound really cool. I kinda want one! (grin)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah Blake LaRose
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