A new app for Android devices called, will read your favorite Websites and blogs to you, freeing your hands (via Bluetooth) while driving. But it also holds out a promising solution to those who have difficulty seeing or reading small text on a smartphone or tablet screen.
Available free of charge through the Google Play store, Web2go, developed by Tel Aviv-based Volacent Inc., introduces what the company calls Artificial Reading Intelligence (ARI). ARI allows the application to streamline the reading process so that the app reads only the relevant text in an article, skipping over superfluous information such as long lists of menu items, photo captions on advertisements and other data points that are not part of the story or blog entry.
The application will be of particular interest to those in government responsible for meeting Section 508 rules which require federal agencies’ electronic and information technology be accessible to people with disabilities.
I tested the application on a Google Nexus 7 tablet, and found the application worked surprisingly well.
Having downloaded and tested other competing applications, what jumped out at me immediately was the quality of Web2go’s voice reader. The voice is clear and reads the text at a consistent, human-like pace (users no longer have to put up with that choppy computer voice that is common in other applications).
In addition, since the technology ignores the vast majority of content on the page that is unrelated to the main article of blog entry, the voice reader automatically starts reading at the headline of an entry. Other applications I tested took several minutes to first read through a mountain of menu items and other irrelevant text areas.
Another nice feature of Web2go is the ability to actually see and browse through the site that is being read. I tested the application on Huffingtonpost.com and CNN.com. I was able to browse through the page while the app read the stories to me. If a story is not of interest to you, you can simply swipe across the screen and skip to the next article on the site.
The only minor glitch I noticed was the app’s tendency to skip all parenthetical commentary.
I spoke with the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer, Shahar Karni, and he said this was actually part of the hard coding of the app that allows it to skip many of the irrelevant data on Websites, particularly photo captions. However, when I explained the tendency of news sites to use parentheses in sentences, Karni immediately understood the importance and said the company would research a way to further segment the rule for particular Webpages.
The only downside of the app is the necessity of users to have to share it with friends in order to unlock additional button positions that allow you to add Websites to your list. The app comes with two positions open and allows you to add any Websites you want into those positions.
Karni said Volacent is open to considering offering more open slots for popular sites in various categories, such as news and entertainment. But the app is free and is meant to be viral, so I understand the company’s desire to force people to share it in order to unlock additional space for more Websites.
The app currently supports more than 140 Websites and users can recommend new sites to the company and they will add them within a few hours, according to Karni.
Web2go is a great app for the price and makes, in my opinion, a significant improvement in reading quality when compared to many other voice reader apps. And Volacent seems to be onto something with the algorithms that power its Artificial Reading Intelligence (ARI). After all, nobody wants to wait a 60 or 90 seconds while a Web reader app reads through the menu items on a blog page or news site. Web2go simply gets to business and reads the article you’re interested in. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.