The team recently set down with the company to look at the XR1 and it’s step up models. And man were we crazy impressed. I am generally not a big fan of Stand Alone scanners. Part of me says that they don’t offer much beyond what we have with Open Book, K-1000 or even Omni Page Pro. But I am considered, by some who know me better than I, to be a Power User of some current gen AT. The truth is that the XR1 is a fantastic device for the aging population who is computer user impaired. And if that’s not your bag the more Extreme models offer so many more options that you will toss your old Reading Edge into a very large dumpster when you experience the machine for the first time.
The first notable thing about the XR1 is it’s level of support. The manual is available in just about every flavor imaginable. You can find it on the web in HTML or you can order your model with large print or Braille copies. A quick start cassette comes with the unit and it is placed directly at the top of the box so it’s the first thing you find when opening the unit’s packaging. This tape covers everything from opening the box’s contents to your first scan. And it’s super detailed as well. To give you an idea of just how good their level of support is check out this link to the website with a video tutorial.
To talk tech for a second..
The unit it’s self consists of some off the shelf technologies packaged with AT&T Natural Voices running under Windows 2000. A 40 GB hard drive a 2.0 or higher processor is under the hood as well. FINE Reader and some licensed Visuaid software aids the unit in providing a very clear and understandable speech that is pleasing to hear for long reading sessions. The scanner it’s self is detachable via Velcro and this allows the company to upgrade or service the scanner without you sending the whole machine back for repairs.
The scanner sits upon a modded PC case. The PC has a CD, floppy, USB, microphone jack, headphone jack, external speaker outputs and Serial connection. In the XR10, the top of the line model, it’s possible for you to run a Screen Reader on the unit with a full 104 styled keyboard. Why would you do such a thing? Well for starters the top of the line model will let you emboss directly from the scanned or saved images. Renaming or editing files can be done via the keyboard.
The Extreme Reader also can be combined with the $250 MP3 accessory so you can take scanned documents and convert them into MP3 files. But if your into DAISY then your covered too. The XR series of units will also play DAISY media, audio CDs and a whole host of text formats. PDF, RTX, DOC or another file of common use can be read aloud by the Extreme Reader.
Now what sets the XR1 apart from it’s rivals is it’s ease of use. That term gets bandied about a ton in the industry, however, in this case I think it’s fully warranted. The XR1 uses an external keypad with only four buttons to control it’s various functions. These buttons are easy to spot and they have tactile markings. Striking the buttons or holding two down at the same time accomplish the initial scan, pause/play or you can hold them down to go back or forwards by a one line at a time. In virtually seconds after scanning I was able to master the functions of the unit and read one of those notices that comes from the airlines about what you can and can’t bring on a plane.
The Extreme Reader also has a wonderful currency reader as well. We placed the most awful wisps of dollar amounts under the unit and only once did we need to press the bill ultra flat for it to be read. Trust me.. it was impressive.
Updates are offered for free in the first year of the unit and then you will need a maintenance agreement. The CD comes in the mail and you simply place it in the machine and turn it on for the unit to self update. Very Visuaid actually. But this is the type of narration/guidance provided throughout the Extreme Reader experience.
If you don’t require that much hand holding, and chances are if your reading this Blog you don’t, the XR10 unit has tons of flexibility in it’s larger key pad. Even that unit, however, sports the easy interface of the XR1 at the bottom of the pad giving the low level user the path to upgrade later on as they used the unit. All you need is a different key pad and it’s CD to swap up or down the unit’s models. And that’s a pretty far cry over most of the “on the case” user interfaced competitors.
If you know someone who is afraid of computers but still wants to have the ability to read at home the Extreme Reader is a great choice in the field of Stand Alone scanners. The unit’s quality of speech when reading tables, money, floppies and DAISY formats sets it apart from others. And the easy to use key pad will have even the oldest and crankiest user enthralled in minutes.
If you’re a more advanced user who may have that ultra large old school Reading Edge on your desk then the XR10 is a perfect replacement. The form factor is smaller than the Edge but similar to the size of a CPU tower laying on it’s side. The advanced key pad will be no challenge to you and you may even like the simple to emboss directly from your scanned images feature.