Mobile Text Reader With OCR and Text To Speech

There are devices out there that will magnify text using fancy cameras and displays, devices that will convert these to Braille, and text-to-speech software has been around for thirty years. For his entry into our Raspberry Pi Zero contest, [Markus] decided to combine all these ideas into a simple device that will turn the printed word into speech.

The impetus for [Markus]’ project came to him in the form of a group of blind computer science  students. These students used a specialized program that used specialized hardware and software such as mobile Braille terminals, OCR, and oral exams that allowed these students to study the same thing as everyone else. [Markus] wanted to produce something similar, using simple text-to-speech software instead of a complicated Braille display.

The physical design of [Markus]’ project is uniquely functional – a hand-held device with a camera up front, a Pi in the middle, and a speaker and headphone jack on the back. The hand grip includes a large battery and a trigger for telling the Pi to read a few words aloud.

The software is built around the SnapPicam and includes a lot of the functionality already needed. OCR is largely a solved problem with Tesseract, and text-to-speech is easy with Festival.

Although [Markus] is just plugging a few existing software modules together, he’s come up with a device that is certainly unique and could be exceptionally useful to anyone with a vision impairment.


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The Raspberry Pi Zero contest is presented by Hackaday and Adafruit. Prizes include Raspberry Pi Zeros from Adafruit and gift cards to The Hackaday Store!
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EVA: What’s on Telly for the Visually Impaired

[chewabledrapery] has certainly used his Raspberry Pi for good. His girlfriend’s grandfather is growing more visually impaired as time goes on. He likes to watch telly, but has trouble reading the on-screen information about the channel and programming. To that end, [chewabledrapery] has built an electronic voice assistant called EVA, who fetches the telly schedule from a web service and reads it aloud in her lovely voice that comes courtesy of Google Translate’s TTS function.

Under EVA’s hood is a Raspberry Pi. A USB hub powers the Pi and holds a small USB soundcard, a Wi-Fi dongle, and a USB daughterboard that the controller plugs into. The daughterboard is from a USB keyboard, which makes another appearance in the awesome controller. It’s made of a joystick and two arcade buttons that use the USB keyboard’s controller to interact with Python scripts.

[chewabledrapery]’s scripts make formatted requests to a web service called atlas, which returns JSON objects with the TV schedule and content descriptions. EVA then turns to Google Translate, speaking the formatted text through a small amplifier and salvaged PC speaker. In order to minimize the number of web calls, some of EVA’s frequent musings are stored locally. A full tour of EVA is after the break.

We love to see hacks that help people. Remember this RFID audio book reader?

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Raspberry Pi Becomes a Universal Translator

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We’re still about 150 years away from the invention of the universal translator by [Lt Cdr Sato] of the Enterprise NX-01, but [Dave] has something that’s almost as good: a speech recognition, translation, and text to speech setup for the Raspberry Pi that theoretically allows anyone to speak in sixty different languages.

After setting up all the Linux audio cruft, [Dave] digs in and starts on converting the guttural vocalizations of a meat speaker into something Google’s speech to text service can understand. From there, it’s off to Google again, this time converting text in one language into the writings of another.

[Dave]’s end result is a shell script that works reasonably well for something that won’t be invented for another 150 years. The video below shows the script successfully translating English to spanish, but it should work equally well with other languages such as dutch and latin, as well as less popular language such as esperanto and french.

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Building a blink based input device

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Fans of the AMC show Breaking Bad will remember the Original Gangsta [Hector Salamanca]. When first introduced to the story he communicates by ringing a bell. But after being moved to a nursing home he communicates by spelling out messages with the assistance of a nurse who holds up a card with columns and rows of letters. This hack automates that task, trading the human assistant for a blink-based input system.

[Bob Stone] calls the project BlinkTalk. The user wears a Neurosky Mindwave Mobile headset. This measures brainwaves using EEG. He connects the headset to an mBed microcontroller using a BlueSMiRF Bluetooth board. The microcontroller processes the EEG data to establish when the user blinks their eyes.

The LCD screen first scrolls down each row of the displayed letters and numbers. When the appropriate row is highlighted a blink will start scrolling through the columns until a second blink selects the appropriate character. Once the message has been spelled out the “SAY!” menu item causes the Emic2 module to turn the text into speech.

If you think you could build something like this to help the disabled, you should check out thecontrollerproject.com where builders are connected with people in need.

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Alert Tube monitors all aspects of your digital life

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This futuristic appliance can keep you apprised of all you social network goings on and much more. [Mike Watson] calls the device the Alert Tube because of its functionality and shape. The hardware depends primarily on a Raspberry Pi board which seems tailor-made for this type of use. The information gathering side of this shows off the power of a fledgling services called If This Then That.

We’ve heard of IFTTT only because [Chris Gammel] and [Dave Jones] covered it on an episode of The Amp Hour. [Dave] dismissed it as have little to no practical use. But this project shows how it can be leveraged to make quick work of pulling your desired data from the Internet. Think of it as a collection of APIs for many sites like Twitter, Facebook, as well as local weather, etc. This project sets up IFTTT to monitor your accounts, alerting you with colors of like, sound, and even text-to-speech.

The project explanation is several pages long but you can get a quick look at it by watching the demo video.
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Manuel the Scottish moose speaks your tweets

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The folks over at Torchbox needed a Christmas card this year. Previously, the most poplar holiday card was a web page that gave their visitors a chance to activate a ‘snow machine’ and spray confetti on a random employee, all while being streamed online. They wanted to replicate this bridge between virtual and real life interactions this year, and Manuel the talking moose was born.

Manuel needed a personality and interaction from random people on the Internet so the Torchbox team decided to make the fake moose head speak tweets in real-time with the help of a Raspberry Pi. The code running on the Raspi gets tweets with a #tbxmoose hashtag, sends that through a node.js script, and finally sent to the Festival speech synthesis system.

A few modifications needed to be done to Manuel before he was presented to the Internet. His jaw was chopped in half and a servo and animatronic controller were added for a proper presentation on Torchbox’s stream of Manuel’s random musings.

Twitter radio

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This anthropomorphized wood bowl will read Tweets out loud. It was built by [William Lindmeier] as part of his graduate work in the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University. View the clip after the break to see and hear a list from his Twitter feed read in rather pleasant text-to-speech voices.

The electronics involved are rather convoluted. Inside the upturned bowl you’ll find both an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi. But that’s not the only thing that goes into this. The best sounding text-to-speech program [William] could find was for OSX, so there is a remote computer involved as well. But we think what makes this special is the concept and execution, not the level of hardware inefficiency.

The knob to the left sets the volume and is also responsible for powering down the device. The knob of the right lets you select from various Twitter lists. Each turn of the knob is responded to with a different LED color in the nose and a spoken menu label. You can get a quick overview of the project from this summary post.

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