July 22, 2004 - Infowalker
Download MP3 (Right-click or option-click the link.)
AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on Wordmaster: a new way to walk through the Web.
RS: Infowalker is a free computer program available on the Internet. It's called a browser companion, and the focus is on foreign-language learners, children and the visually impaired. It reads Web pages out loud, finds pictures to illustrate words, and translates text into or out of English.
BOB MYERS: "At the moment we have Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Italian. But we do have plans to expand that list of languages in the near future."
AA: Bob Myers is founder of a software company in West Hollywood, California, called Naturally Open. Infowalker is its first product. Bob Myers calls it a better way to browse the Web, though it's not meant for pages with lots of graphics and without much text.
BOB MYERS: "There are also a large number of Web pages which are basically huge masses of text. And those are really the pages that Infowalker is trying to help people read better, translate better."
AA: "I liked the way you could speed up or slow down the rate of speech, to help a little bit with the understanding, and there's also a selection of three different voices you can [use] -- a female voice, a couple of male voices."
BOB MYERS: "The voices are, of course, computer-generated voices. And in some cases -- I hope none of your listeners try to learn English pronunciation by listening to those voices, because they'll end up sounding like a computer voice."
AA: "It wasn't that bad."
BOB MYERS: "It's not that bad, yes."
AA: "You've also got the feature where it will look for pictures related to key terms on the page that's being read. It was kind of funny to see the photos that it would pull up to illustrate the texts."
BOB MYERS: "Right. This is a feature where Infowalker, when you point it to a sentence, will automatically go into the sentence and identify keywords within the sentence which it thinks represent the important concepts in that sentence. And then based on those keywords, it goes out onto the Internet and automatically finds a picture which represents those concepts it identified. And it shows that picture to you also in the little Infowalker window in the lower right hand corner of your screen."
AA: "Although I must point out that in some cases the photos had absolutely nothing -- or at least didn't seem to have anything to do with the sentence. But other photos certainly did. It helped illustrate what it was reading."
BOB MYERS: "There's a new feature which we have added in the version which we are going to be releasing actually in just a few days which I think will partially solve that problem. What it lets you do is instead of only working on a sentence-by-sentence basis, it actually lets you select specific text within anywhere on the Web page. And then it does all the same things that Infowalker does now, which is it can translate that text, put up an image about that text, speak the text aloud."
RS: "Now this is a free service."
BOB MYERS: "This is absolutely free. It's not shareware that you're expected to pay something for later. The way we make our money is that, as your users will see if they download this product, there's a small, non-intrusive line which displays an advertisement. Which actually in some cases is useful, and people may want to click through and see what the advertisement is about."
RS: "So what are your expectations for this product?"
BOB MYERS: "The vision that I have is that Infowalker could become an integral part of the browsing process for many different kinds of people. I certainly think that includes foreign language learners. I think it also includes visually impaired people; another feature of Infowalker is that it can display text in large type, which is useful obviously for the visually impaired. I think it has a potential market in the educational area and also among children, especially using this automated ability to illustrate the sentence or phrase that you selected."
AA: And it's not just groups like these that Bob Myers thinks can benefit. He says Infowalker is a useful tool for general Web searching. So where can you download it?
RS: You can go directly to his company's Web site at naturallyopen.com/infowalker. Or you can also link from our site, voanews.com/wordmaster. And our e-mail address here is email@example.com. With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.