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Amazability: A Research Activity of the Minerva Brooks Memorial Library, Inc.

Adept1 Components

The Adept1 is a high productivity speech based tool meeting the needs of persons with disabilities and those who are otherwise "eyes or hands-busy". Over the past 20 years screen reader technology for those who use speech output has been offered as the primary means for accessing computer based information. This technology, while admirable, imposes severe productivity challenges because considerable time must be used to scan the screen. Specifically, the Adept1 offers:

  • Command and Control substantially faster than screen reader technology

  • Ease of Use, particularly for the average user, because of reduced application complexity and natural language voice control

  • Compatibility with other document formats including conversion from DOC, PDF, HTML, etc. to a natural language voice-readable form

  • Ebook Access including transparent readability for audio, digital, Braille, and DAISY formatted books.
The Adept1 may be considered an appliance to be used in the same way you might use your stereo system or cell phone. As an appliance, you may nonetheless create and modify documents, read books and other documents, access your personal library, browse the web, and do email.

The Adept1 may be used on small machines including laptops or notebooks. It includes an embedded operating system along with the highest quality text-to-speech (TTS) and automatic speech recognition (ASR) engines - all in a single integrated package.

The Adept1 provides word processing with spellchecking, reading of all types of materials, email access with address book, the searching of reference works, and general Web browsing. These applications are designed using command terminology and natural language vocabularies that are consistent throughout. They are intended to be the first in a series of educational and vocational tools designed to expand opportunities for persons with disabilities. By implementing a "virtual companion" that can understand natural language, the much larger population of persons with minimal or no technical or computer experience is offered powerful tools that can be easily learned and used.

The Adept1 applications developed for concurrent typed and/or spoken input are:

  • Word Processing - Through verbal or typed commands files may be listed in menu form and specific ones chosen for reading. You may search and skip around menus to quickly find the required file. Once opened, you may read a character at a time, a word at a time, a line at a time, or may read whole sentences, paragraphs, or pages. You may make changes, insertions, or deletions or may simply browse the document. When completed, you may use spellcheck to confirm spelling and then print the document, translate it into Braille, or store it for future reference. Upon opening a file, the Adept1 determines its type, e.g. DOC or PDF, and performs appropriate conversion to a speech readable form or diverts the file for special handling, e.g. audio to sound output.

  • Library Of Books And Documents - The Library provided with your Adept1 contains a wide range of books and documents which you may retrieve by browsing the catalogue. Items in the Library catalogue are organized by subject, author, and title. Through searches or simple menuing, books may be requested, opened, and easily read. The Adept1’s built-in analysis of document type permits it to switch languages and to tailor speech output to be narrative or technical. Many types of formats, including DAISY, ebook, text, and multimedia, are accommodated. These may be catalogued into the Library for later recall.

  • Reference Works - You may open and browse dictionaries, glossaries, etc. These include thesauruses, cross-language dictionaries, medical glossaries, and special topics. You may easily search for definitions, glossary terms, etc. You may also retrieve reference information and place it into your text.

  • Email - You can download email and read or modify existing items, forward or reply to email, and easily manage attachments. You can handle multimedia or MIME compliant items and send and receive non-textual files. In particular, sound files can be extracted from email and saved or played in real time.

  • Address Book - You may use the address book with email and other messaging. You may retrieve such contact information as names, addresses, telephone numbers, short notes, etc. You can verbally command the speaking of telephone and address information.

  • Web Browser - When you start the browser a default web page is downloaded. You can scan the page, which has been processed to provide a narrative reading experience free of unnecessary characters. You may open lists of links, frames, forms, pages accessed, book marks, or other page objects and request any of these for download or review. You may at any time save all or any part of your web page. You may also download books or other items that are to be saved on your Adept1.
These applications are all part of the Adept1 Free Software Version . They are offered with voice recognition or ASR and may include specialized vocabularies for dictation. Ambiguous or uncommon terms may be typed as verbal dictation is underway.

Many other features have been designed and are under test which use the same basic commands for reading and navigating. These may be offered in future releases. They include:

  • Home Accounting - Suitable for maintaining personal financial records including check ledgers, balances, etc. and the online payment of bills.

  • Messaging Services - Simple messaging services, RSS text-reading, fax transmission, and voice over IP.

  • Calendar and Appointment Book - Log appointments, check your calendar, and receive alerts.

  • - Word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and database applications suitable for home or business. These applications enable full interchange with other vendors' word processing applications. You may open, edit, and close in their native format the office documents of mainstream vendors, such as Microsoft Corporation, using a natural language speech interface. You use the same commands found elsewhere on the Adept1 for word processing.

It must be emphasized that these applications are designed for speech interaction, without reference to any form of graphical representation. Verbal cues are presented throughout Adept1 operation in order to compensate for the absence of a visual field and to reinforce memory. The Adept1 uses natural language processing and automatic speech recognition, thereby becoming a voice interactive “virtual companion”.

Since the Adept1 is built around a highly flexible open source operating system, it can support a variety of other access devices such as pressure-sensitive mice and touch tablets, as well as special and standard keyboards. The Adept1 and the wide range of applications available from the open source repositories are interfaced through middleware programs that manage ASR and other control functions thereby providing for flexible speech formatting. These middleware programs are:

  • a.control - embodying a multistage recognition subsystem, designed to increase voice recognition accuracy for non-spontaneous command-and-control utterances to the maximum possible. It also accepts verbal commands to modify speech output.

  • a.format - a comprehensive speech output format manager providing up to seven levels of control for presenting speech. It automates such presentation requirements as spelling versus non-spelling, hiding or truncating repetitive character strings, speaking numbers versus digit strings, as well as the appropriate speaking of tables, forms, lists, menus, etc.

  • Natural Language Processor – employing language parsing and interpretation, analysis of meaning, and task execution to provide natural language dialoging.
The Adept1 is equipped with a number of easy-to-use procedures intended to solve the "getting lost" problem. These are provided since the use of speech-based applications can result in your becoming lost. Context can be forgotten and the actual functioning of the system can become suspect. This can result from an incorrect command sequence, an application’s failing to do the intended action, or even simply because you are distracted. Therefore, any system using speech must be equipped with multiple levels of reset and prompts.

One of the most important prompts is the “where am i” command. It can be issued at any time and from anywhere and, when used, causes the Adept1 to verbally describe the current location and activity.

The Adept1 applications typically acknowledge a command both at initiation and upon completion, e.g. accepting and announcing a web page retrieval and issuing a “ready” when it is downloaded. Longer-term actions, such as file downloads, are cued with verbal progress reports. The combination of these reset and prompting functions should give you full confidence in the use of speech.

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