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Amazon extends Voice Guide, Explore by Touch to Kindle Fire, HD

Amazon has announced that it is to extend its accessibility services, Voice Guide and Explore by Touch, to the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD 7in tablets, following its debut on the Kindle Fire HD 8.9in in the US.

Originally available exclusively on the larger Kindle Fire HD 8.9in model, the accessibility software - designed to make using the device easier for those with impaired vision - will soon be available on both the Kindle Fire tablet and its higher-resolution Kindle Fire HD 7in stablemate.

"We have heard from thousands of customers who are vision-impaired that Kindle has made a difference in their lives. With Kindle Fire HD 8.9in and soon our full line of new tablets, we are continuing our efforts to provide a range of accessibility features — Voice Guide, Explore by Touch, text-to-speech, optional text colouring and adjustable font sizes — for our vision-impaired customers", claimed Dave Limp, Amazon's vice-president in charge of the Kindle division. "We plan to deliver additional accessibility features, so that our vision-impaired customers can have a better experience for reading, communicating and consuming media."

The Voice Guide system, based on technology from IVONA, sets the tablet up so that any action performed by the user is read aloud using text-to-speech technology. This, Amazon claims, provides immediate feedback and lets the user check if their request has been properly fulfilled - especially in the case of opening a book, where the title of the book is read out loud for confirmation. The accessibility upgrade also features Explore by Touch, which allows the user to swipe his or her finger across the screen to read out each item in turn. Browsing a book library, then, becomes a case of simply swiping your finger across the screen, waiting to hear the book title you're looking for and then confirming with a second tap.

Thus far, Amazon hasn't given a firm date for bringing the new features to the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD 7in tablets beyond a commitment to release an update "early next year."

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