Prose and Doggerel

The Reading Eye Dog is a metal dog that can read out loud printed reading material that is placed in front of him on his reading stand. Although he has some reading material already, he can also read books, newspapers, and brochures brought by the visitors to the exhibit. He sees the page with his camera-like eyes (well, actually they are cameras). What he sees is sent to his computer which then displays it on LCD monitors placed on the front and back of his body. Visitors can watch these monitors to see him "digest" the images into shapes, then letters, and finally words. The Reading Eye Dog speaks the words he has read in a gruff yet friendly dog voice. Patting the button on his shoulder tells him when to start reading, processing, and speaking.

What's it about?Prose and Doggerel is about the visitor's best friend reading all kinds of things out loud. Having a dog read recite poetry to you can be a very unusual but enjoyable experience!

What is the experiment? In this exhibit RED was very interested in the question of "What does it mean for a machine to read?" Clearly the Dog does not understand what it is reading, but it is certainly reading in some sense. RED was also interested in exploring how the new digital technologies could be used by people with visual and reading challenges to help them read, in the way that seeing-eye dogs help the people navigate the world. Lastly, RED was interested in exploring how the form of technology affects our response to it. The dog form made this exhibit seem alive, smart, and helpful. Why?

How does it work? Mounted in the dog's eyes are two video cameras that capture the image of the material placed in front of it. The computer reads these images and then stitches them together to create one large image. A software program scans this stitched together image and finds the parts of the image which are text. Using pattern-matching software, the computer determines what each letter is. It then puts these letters together to form words. Through a voice synthesizer, the dog speaks each word that it has read. If it doesn't know how to say the word, it will spell it. Each step of the process is shown on the LCD monitors on the dog's front and back.