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Listen to the Glasses

Listen to the Glasses

I've been wittering away about these all-singing-all-dancing-all-talking OrCam glasses for two weeks now, and I know what you're really curious about is what they sound like reading poetry. So I've been having a go at recording them reading my children's poem, Dindins, which I talked about last week.

When I go to creative writing group I take a printout of whatever I've written which I hold up in front of my face and the glasses read the text. To simplify the mechanics for simultaneously making a recording, I opened the Word doc version on my laptop and had the glasses reading the poem off the laptop screen. That actually made the reading part harder but the recording part easier. Trying to look at the title without the glasses attempting to read all the Word formatting buttons took about 12 attempts! This is still early days with the glasses though so I'm sure I'll get more proficient with practice :)

I sat in front of the laptop screen, glasses on my nose and the control unit at my side. Plugged in to the control unit was an external speaker which gave a lot more volume to the recording and a much better tone of voice. Also Next to the control unit and the speaker was my book reader which I used to record the audio. This is a summary of the process that I followed:

  • Look at the screen and press the trigger button on the control unit.
  • Listen to the glasses begin to read. If they start reading halfway through the poem then cancel reading and adjust my head so I am looking a little higher up the screen, or lower if the glasses have started reading the ribbon options such as font name and size and buttons I for italic, B for bold or U for underline.
  • If the reading is progressing well then stop it with the trigger button and then, whilst trying not to move my head from that position, reach for the book reader and press the record button. As soon as it beeps to let me know that recording has commenced I reach back to the control unit and press the trigger button once more which will re-take the photograph of the poem on-screen and begin to read it aloud.
  • Once the poem has been read reach back to the book reader and press the OK button to finish the recording.

And here's the result — click on the link to listen to an mp3 recording of the OrCam glasses reading my poem DinDins. The first thing you'll here is a quiet beep as I press the trigger button, followed by the sound of the camera taking the photo of the text. Then follows the poem itself, followed by a ding which is the OrCam glasses signalling that they've finished reading all the text that they can find, and then the swooshing noise is me moving my hand to find the OK button to stop my book reader recording. Next time I'll keep the volume a little lower so there is less distortion in the recording, but that's a minor grumble. You'll notice the glasses aren't particularly comfortable with the title, DinDins, and they weren't whether I used Dindins, Din-Dins or Din Dins. You'll also notice that they don't manage the word tin comfortably either. This is likely to be essentially the same problem — the glasses are recognising the "in" part at the end of DinDins and tin as being a word in its own right and not really knowing how to attach the extra "Dind-" and "t-" parts. That's not an atypical experience when computers try and decide how to say words that they half-recognise, and if you can't phonetically spell them out for the electronic device then you're stuck with whatever it defaults to. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how well it worked — obviously I know what the glasses are saying because I wrote the poem, but did you find the speed of the reading made for an acceptable listening experience, and apart from the words Dindins and tin was there anything that you didn't register on first reading?

Exercise: would you feel comfortable if you had to spend tomorrow with a blindfold over your eyes? Give it a whirl — when you take your shower tomorrow morning try doing it with your eyes shut and no squinting; try spending the whole morning blindfolded, or if you're feeling really brave spend the whole day that way. Make sure you try writing some poetry without using anything that reflects the sense of sight :)

#Poetry #Blindness #OrCam

Published inblindnessPoetry


  1. Great challenge at the end! I love it.

    And the recording is fascinating…

  2. Charlotte Gann Charlotte Gann

    I think the recording’s great, Giles. I wonder if you get a choice of voices…

    • Giles Giles

      there is a choice of two voices, the male UK voice you heard in the recording and an American female voice which, I have to say, is not as good quality. I generally use a female voice setting with my book reader and screen reader devices but they sound quite a bit more natural than the female voice on my glasses. Next time I record a poem for the website I’ll switch to the female voice so you can compare the two 🙂

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