Steve Kelley

Imagine a device that scans and reads printed text quickly, is easy to use, and is portable, weighing less than the average laptop computer, at about three pounds. Just put a book, magazine, or sheet of paper beneath the camera and within seconds it's being read out loud. You’re imagining the LyriQ Reader by Zyrlo, LLC.

The LyriQ’s base takes up about as much room on a desk as a standard size magazine. It is made up of a flat base, about three-fourths of an inch thick, with a triangular camera stand that folds up from the base. There is a removable keypad in the triangle, with menu controls. This keypad is connected using the included USB cable and operates some of the more advanced functions on the LyriQ.

The basic controls for operating the LyriQ are located around the base of the device. On the left side of the base, the Power button is positioned between the charger input and an earphone jack. In the front center, there is a volume slider. To the left of the volume slider is a Back button, which will take the reader back a sentence each time it is pressed while the LyriQ is reading. To the right of the volume slider is a Pause button. On the right side of the base is a reading rate toggle to increase or decrease the reading rate, a USB port, and HDMI port.

It’s Easy to Use, Really!

With the base unit charged or plugged in, the LyriQ Reader can be started by lifting the camera arm, and pressing the power button until a beep is heard. Thirty seconds later the device is ready for a document with the announcement, “Please place your document.” Place a book, magazine, or document on the base and a picture is automatically taken. Seconds later the LyriQ begins reading. By default, the LyriQ detects and reads pages column by column.

The basic controls are located around the base. The volume and reading speed can be adjusted to the user’s preference, reading can be paused and resumed, and reading can be repeated by using the Back button to go back sentence by sentence, as needed. Otherwise, the document is read from top to bottom.

During the review, books were centered on the base with both pages open, magazines were scanned one page at a time, and documents up to ledger-size paper were scanned (Note: Zyrlo reports that the scanning area is 8.5 by 11, or a standard sheet of paper). The camera did not seem to capture the full image of a standard magazine when opened on the base with two opposing pages facing up. Scanning and text recognition was much better using a single page at a time with magazines.

It’s worth noting that reading stops if the document is removed from the base. Once reading is completed, and the document removed, LyriQ again prompts, “Please place your document,” for the next document to be scanned.

Two speakers are located on the inside of the triangular camera stand, so when it is raised for scanning, the speakers are facing forward and the volume can be turned up quite a bit. In addition to the audio jack for headphone or earbuds, the user guide provides directions for connecting an external speaker or hearing aids if the optional Bluetooth module is installed.

LyriQ also recognizes hand gestures if this feature is enabled. Pressing and holding the Pause button on the base unit turns on hand gestures to pause reading with a hand movement beneath the camera from left to right, or to go back a sentence with a hand movement from right to left.

For more advanced reading options the Keyboard Controls provide the option to change reading granularity so that documents can be read by paragraph, sentence, word, or character. The top portion of the Keyboard Controls contains Up, Down, Right, andLeft Arrow keys with a round button in the middle. The Up and Down keys are used to select how the document is read, and the Left and Right Arrow keys will navigate forward or backward through the document in the selected mode. Below and to the right of these navigation keys is the Spell button, which when pressed will spell the last word read. This featured was most easily used when navigating by word. 

Saving Documents

LyriQ offers two ways to save documents for later review. Using the Keyboard Controls, four pages may be saved and assigned to the navigation arrows using the two buttons at the bottom of the Keyboard Controls. The bottom left square button is the Save button, and the bottom right button is the Recall button. When saving a document, the reader presses the Save button, followed by one of the navigation keys, which is then assigned to it. To listen to this saved document later, the Recall button and the navigation key assigned to it are pressed and the document is read. This is really handy to keep several frequently used documents immediately ready to open and review.

LyriQ also includes a feature to save longer documents, like books or magazine articles, by processing them on a USB flash drive. When a flash drive is connected to the USB port, it automatically switches to Book Scan Mode with the prompt, “USB storage detected, entering Book Scan mode.” In this mode, as pages are scanned, they are not read out loud after the page is scanned. LyriQ prompts, “Page saved,” after the scan, and the next page can be positioned for scan. Once the pages are scanned, pressing the Pause button initiates saving the pages onto the USB drive. This process seems to take several minutes per page. On one of the book scans during the review, it was observed that the processing seemed to start in the background, before the Pause button was pressed and a verbal prompt announced the completion of a page. Also during one book scan of numerous pages, several pages did not provide the “Page saved,” response after scanning, and it was unclear if these pages would be processed in the USB drive, or it they needed to be scanned again.

When complete, the USB drive contains a folder named, “Zyrlo Books,” containing subfolders for the books created. Each individual book folder contains the folders: Images, Text, and Audio. The Images folder contains the picture of the scanned page. Text contains a text file of the text recognition processed from the image. Audio contains an MP3 file of the text-to-speech of the text. The audio is recorded in both the voice and voice rate selected at the time the files were processed.

Overall Impression

The LyriQ is really quite easy and quick to use for reading. The Quick Start guide is in large print on a single sheet of paper and contains five short steps. Once started, the User Guide can be quickly read using the LyriQ. There is a Help button on the Keyboard Controls, and when that is held down and followed by pressing a second button, it will describe the second button. It would be great to have the User Guide accessible using this button, perhaps with a long press or double press. Although the User Guide is only 10 pages long, it might still be more convenient as an audio file available with a key press on the Keyboard Controls.

Text recognition was quite accurate on the printed material used during the review, which included newspaper print, a small font size on a book, and magazine print. One of three voices may be selected from the Voice button (on the left, below the navigation keys), a male or female English voice or a female Spanish voice, which, when selected, also changes the instructions provided in the prompts into Spanish. Additional voices are available in most European languages according to Zyrlo and can be installed with a USB flash drive.

The Book Saving Mode was such a handy way to get a magazine or book that might not otherwise be quickly available in electronic text or text-to-speech. The USB drive may be readable using a NLS Talking Book Player or the files transferred to another reading device, like a Victor Reader Stream. The LyriQ, however, will not open and read the document saved on the USB drive. 

The LyriQ Reader makes a great option for anyone wanting quick, easy access to print, without depending on a computer or smartphone. Overall, the text conversion is fast and accurate. For those looking for a convenient way to convert longer documents, like a book or magazine, into electronic text or audio files, the Book Saving Mode is really a handy, convenient option. For more information about the LyriQ Reader, check out the Zyrlo website for a video and brochure or call 800-600-8569. In the US, the LyriQ sells for $1,850 at retailers selling low vision products.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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Steven Kelley
Article Topic
Product Reviews and Guides