When powered on, the localized verbal instructions lead users through the audio user interface. To access recordings, users are guided by audio prompts and respond with key presses. For instance, pressing the right and left arrows navigate through categories (for example, “health”, “agriculture”, “stories”) and once in a category, the up and down arrows rotate through individual messages.
The current version of the Talking Book is 12 cm x 12 cm x 6.5 cm deep and weighs 225 grams without batteries. Devices are typically powered by two, zinc-carbon, size-D batteries, which we have found in rural markets throughout Ghana for $0.35-0.40. These batteries supply 12-15 hours of typical use. Power can be conserved using earphones, but a built-in speaker enables group listening.
Recordings are stored on an internal microSD memory card, which typically provides hundreds of messages.
The software on the Talking Book is the heart of the device. Because it is a computer, we can work with our partners to customize the software to precisely fill their needs. A few examples of the flexibility of the software are listed below.
One of the most powerful aspects of the Talking Book is the ability to play and create what we call “audio applications”. Unlike typical recordings, these applications allow users to engage with the device in a more interactive way. For example, with the current device you can create multiple choice quizzes and audio hyperlinks. However, because the device is a computer, we can create virtually any interactive game you can imagine. Audio activities using a hierarchical structure or random functionality are just a few of the possibilities. We work with our partner organizations to create applications that suit their needs.
Talking Books gather a variety of usage statistic in the field: they track how often recordings are played, and they enable users to rate recordings. Users are able to record their feedback directly on the Talking Book. By reviewing and acting upon this data, our partners are able to increase the effectiveness of their recordings and their programs.
We continuously improve and add features to the Talking Book. Most of these improvements find their way to the devices in the form of software updates.