RFID Audio Book Reader For The Visually Impaired

When [Willem] visited home last year, he stopped in at his grandparents’ house and found that his very active 93-year-old grandfather had recently gone almost completely blind and was passing the days just sitting in a chair. [Willem] suggested that he listen to audio books, but his grandfather wasn’t receptive to the idea until [Willem] convinced him that the well-narrated ones can be very gripping and entertaining. Once his grandfather was on board, [Willem] knew that he needed a much more accessible solution than a tiny device with tiny controls, so he built an RFID audio reader using a Raspberry Pi.

[Willem] has posted the build details at his personal site. Essentially, the box you see above contains a Raspi and an RFID reader. He created different ‘books’ by placing RFID cards inside of DVD boxes, which makes them more tangible and accessible. When a book is placed on the box, the RFID reader tells the Pi which mp3 files to load. The large colored buttons let the user pause, rewind 20 seconds, and control the volume.

We love to see this kind of build. It’s simple, effective, and greatly enhances the user’s quality of life. [Willem]’s grandfather loves it and uses it every day.

14 thoughts on “RFID Audio Book Reader For The Visually Impaired

  1. Outstanding project and usecase Willem! Congratulations for being able to develop such a practical and yet so much needed application, device and user-interface. Its apparent that you successfully achieved your granddad’s continued “zest for life” through this innovative embeded soluton. COOL STUFF! We all at times forget what its like when we loose physically abilities such as in your grandads case or in my case a recent broken leg. Handicaps are certainly nothing age specific either….right? Very happy for you and your family on this great project and family solution! I love the user interface, web notification feature and remote access functionality thagt you designed, engineered and built. Very clever yet simple and reliable solution. Simple solutions to complex problems right? Being able to load new books remotely as Grandpa requests them over so many time zones seemed to be a hard problem to solve but you certainly succeeded! WOW again! Congrat’s again for keeping “Grandpa” in the know and excited again about having a purpose. Thx for sharing all the details of the project and I hope you entereed this project in the Hackaday competiton going on here on this site. My take away here and message for the rest of the Hacker community is that: More developers and engineers should review the problem and solution you developed here to better understand your use case and solution. Understanding,validating and keeping focused on the use case is many times the most important attribute to a successful solution. Thanks again. John Neyland, Olathe KS.

  2. My dear grandfather was an avid reader who relied on magnifiers when diabetes took most of his eyesight. Something like this would have benefited him greatly in his last few years.

    Bravo, Willem. Bravo.

    1. What I noticed was a limited number of controls. For vision-impaired people I understand this is considered “best practice”, constrain the number of inputs to what is required and little else, but yes, a volume knob seems more intuitive, especially for a member of the pre-iphone generation.

      I also noticed the buttons were big, friendly and probably unlikely to be accidentally pushed.

  3. This comes just at the right time. I have been asked by my mother who is slowly losing eyesight for exactly such a thing. I have a couple of animal transponders lying around and will try to “implant” them in her existing books if I can get an audio version of them. And I will use her TV-set both for audio output and as a display. But using real objects for user-input is the way to go. I tried to present her with a kindle (adjustable font size) but she could not handle the menu-structure there. Yet, she can switch tv-channels and having a box to read the book to her that she places on it will work.
    Thanks a lot for the inspiration!

  4. I think this could be an actual product!

    I care for two aging people (mom’s 75, dad’s 83) and I’m grateful that both had their cataracts fixed-both can read with little assistance (I have the strongest perscription at 50-go figure!) but am always on the lookout for enabling technologies to assist in “life enhancement” activities.

    Mom’s the webhead of the pair and I’m about to introduce her to Windows 8.1 (her old laptop finally bit the big one) and I think that the interface (and it’s simplicity) is often lost on us technical folk

    Simple solutions, easy to use is my mantra for the project. I had no idea how much I had customized my own computer until I was presented with a new laptop with nothing loaded, and had to create an environment friendly to a non-computer-literate person. It’s not as easy as it looks!

  5. I love this build, but I just want to make sure everyone knows about the NLS. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is a wonderful service that I discovered after I met my blind wife. They supply hardware that is exceptionally well designed for people unable to work with books. http://www.loc.gov/nls/ This is a completely free service to the user and they have a huge library. Their digital player is an item I pull out as an engineer and use as an example of a well thought out and implemented product.

    1. I only just became aware of the NLS system the other day while visiting a retirement home for work and noticing these chunky audiobook players in the rooms of many residents. If you know anyone who’s visually impared it’s a very good service to get them into, and I was expecting to see some sort of weird lockdown on the format or cards, or whatever, but the there’s videos on how to properly master audiobooks for it, the “books” are a plastic shell around a USB stick you can order on amazon for $10, and the only copy restriction is an optional encryption libraries have to use for copyright fair use reasons.

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