As part of my class requirements for EDAT 423/523 at George Mason University, I had to evaluate an assistive input device and demonstrate how it would be used by a person with a disability. I immediately thought of the ScanMarker Air, a scanning pen that has been a game changer for me as a student with low vision and a print disability, and how I wished I had access to this device in high school. Here is my review of the ScanMarker Air for low vision print disabilities, which has been updated in 2023.
The ScanMarker Air is a portable OCR scanner that can scan printed text in 70+ languages directly into a productivity application or ScanMarker’s native mobile app. It can be used with a wireless (Bluetooth) connection, or with a wired USB connection, and works with all Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. The ScanMarker Air costs $149 and can be purchased from Amazon or the company website directly- I purchased mine from Amazon as it frequently goes on sale for $125 or less.
It’s worth noting that the ScanMarker Air is priced much lower than a lot of other scanning pens and portable scanners for low vision, which is why I was so excited to try this device. It would be a great product to request for a DonorsChoose project!
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My first impressions of the ScanMarker Air
One of the first things I noticed about the ScanMarker Air is how lightweight it is at 60 grams- much lighter than a lot of the other portable scanners I had tried. The device design itself is simple and reminds me of a highlighter, and is easy to grasp in my hand, and it has an unobtrusive design so no one would likely notice me using it in the classroom or in the library (something that would have been important to me in high school). I typically store my ScanMarker Air in a cup on my desk or in a small pocket in my backpack for easy transport.
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Using the ScanMarker Air with mainstream technology
One of the selling points of the ScanMarker Air for me is that it is platform agnostic, meaning I can use it on any of my mainstream technology devices, like my Android smartphone, Windows computer, and Apple iPad. The ScanMarker app will need to be downloaded to the device before use, but once the app is installed, text can be scanned into any app, including Microsoft and Google productivity applications like Google Docs or Microsoft Word.
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Scanning text with ScanMarker Air
I have trouble moving my hand in a straight line, so it took some practice to learn to scan in text with the ScanMarker Air. I found that it works best to have the physical text resting on a table, slanted stand, or similar surface so that I can more easily scan to the edge of the page. Even though I can’t see the physical text that’s being scanned in, I can look at the clear tip of the ScanMarker Air to make sure that the text/content I am scanning in is aligned.
The ScanMarker Air can scan in up to 3,000 characters per minute from over 70 languages, but will only recognize text that is between 6 pt and 24 pt in size. Printed text is recognized with OCR technology and can be edited once it is scanned in, however handwritten text will be scanned in as an image, and not as editable text. Simple black and white images can also be scanned in, though I had mixed results scanning in clarinet music as accent marks were cut off.
Please note that the ScanMarker Air does not scan in braille or translate text, though it can be used to scan in text that can be converted to braille or translated with other software.
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Charging the ScanMarker Air
The battery life for the ScanMarker Air is listed as 8-12 hours, and can be used while it is plugged into a computer and charging. It took a long time for it to charge when I first purchased it (around 5 hours), but now it only takes a couple of hours to charge fully. I could easily use it for a full day of classes without worrying about finding a charging spot.
ScanMarker Air and text-to-speech
The ScanMarker Air does not specifically talk, but text that is scanned into another application can be read out loud with text-to-speech or screen readers, edited, or copy/pasted into another application. When I was dealing with a temporary loss of vision, I used the ScanMarker Air to scan in printed text and have it read out loud with the Read Aloud feature on my computer.
ScanMarker Air and large print/screen magnification
Text scanned in with ScanMarker Air can be enlarged or resized within applications like Microsoft Word and Google Docs, or displayed with Dynamic Text sizes on mobile devices. Another option is to display the text with a simplified reading display, such as Immersive Reader, which displays text with consistent formatting.
ScanMarker Air for testing
Since the ScanMarker Air does not have any storage capabilities, it can be used as a high-tech or mid-tech assistive technology device for testing or exams, including the SAT/ACT, state standardized tests, or high school/college exams, as long as it is connected to another device like a computer or tablet. One of my professors allowed me to use the ScanMarker Air in class to take a quiz, and they had me delete the text from my device before leaving the classroom.
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Ways I’ve used the ScanMarker Air
I’ve used the ScanMarker Air in a variety of contexts as a student with low vision, including:
- Scanning in printed math equations and enlarging them on my device
- Reading a book from the campus library
- Enlarging text that is printed in a foreign language- I was able to scan in Chinese characters more accurately with the ScanMarker than with other OCR devices
- Reading a historical document
- Enlarging text on a restaurant menu or ingredients list by connecting the ScanMarker Air to my phone
- Quickly scanning in large amounts of text
- Reviewing papers written by other students or friends
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More tips for using the Scanmarker Air with low vision
- The ScanMarker Air does not have a screen or any other visual tools built in, except for two lights that indicate if Bluetooth is enabled or if the device is charging
- For testing environments, students will likely need a wired connection for the ScanMarker Air, as wireless devices are not typically permitted. Any MicroUSB cable will work
- After losing my black ScanMarker in my black backpack multiple times, I added colored washi tape to the base, which does not damage the device and makes it easier for me to locate