Development Stages of our Product
As with the development of any product, the Intel Reader went through a number of design phases, with feedback loops influencing and often forcing a rewrite of earlier specifications. Outlined here are the stages we went through in the development of the Reader by Intel and our collaborators:
Fundamental R&D. Intel has been researching imaging technology for decades, based largely on the need to develop visual inspection tools for silicon microprocessor manufacturing. Image improvement, rotation alignment, the integration of multiple images into higher resolution images, and fundamental research in optics have all been part of Intel's broad research efforts. Much of this work aided in the design, testing, and debugging of the Intel Reader.
Exploration. Intel engineers began experimenting with image and optical technology, by using lower-resolution cameras and existing OCR solutions, to test the feasibility of capturing images of text taken with hand-held devices and converting them into speech. Initially the team explored the use of cell phones, and then they moved on to off-the-shelf digital cameras. The team mocked up early prototypes and demonstrated the concept for approval. The inclusion of targeted users as members of the design team was critical, thereby allowing deeper insight into usage models.
Usage Research. The team expanded to include behavioral scientists who worked with end users in their homes and workplaces to learn about their daily lives. In this phase, as the diversity of the population was better understood, the core usages were updated and refined.
Human Factors. Following this phase, human factors engineers pulled together a number of potential designs that were modeled on cameras, books, gaming devices, and other hand-held units. Flows of software user interfaces, as well as audio cues and button placements, were proposed. These were then subjected to user testing, whereby additional end users were allowed to hold, touch, and provide input to plastic models and mock-ups. It was at this phase that the insight regarding a downward pointing camera intended for use with documents placed on a table (see Figure 4) rather than wall posters came to light, fundamentally changing the teams understanding of how a reading device needs to be designed. Similarly, the decision as to where to place the key pad and other buttons for easy reach by adults and teen hands came out of this phase of development.
Industrial and mechanical design. Following the human factors work, industrial and mechanical designers defined the shape, color, and materials, working through the stack-up of major subsystems and the placement of key features.
Electrical and thermal engineering. With emphasis on achieving a good end-user experience of holding and utilizing the device, the system designers crafted board layout and airflows to fit with the mechanical and industrial design.
Software architecture. Research into third-party applications, as well as internal experience drove the team to use Moblin as the Linux platform and begin working on an architecture that could include both new and existing modules.
Alpha testing. Following six months of development, the team tested the first integrated system, molded in plastic, using an older version Intel processor (as the Intel Atom platform was still in development at that time). These systems were tested with another set of users, refining each of the key design elements while changes were more feasible.
Manufacturing. The team engaged with the manufacturing group to develop the high-volume capacity and necessary test infrastructure.
Future development. After launch, we will continue to improve the device further and provide updates to the product.