Intel has launched a handheld mobile reader that allows people with learning disabilities and those with poor vision to photograph text and have it read aloud to them digitally.

The Intel Reader uses a high resolution camera to convert printed text into digital text and then reads it aloud while also showing it on a screen. It has 2GB of internal memory – enough to scan around 600 pages.

The reader can also convert text from emails and the internet via a USB port and transfer it to an MP3 player or mobile phone for future use.

The device was designed and developed by Ben Foss, director of access technology at Intel’s Digital Health Group.

He demonstrated the reader at its launch by photographing a newspaper and getting it to read the text out loud within seconds of it being scanned.

Foss said: “We have ramps to our buildings so people can get into them. This is a ramp for books so that people can easily get into books. This device not only gives people access to text but gives them access to hope and self respect.”

Both the British Dyslexia Association and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) support the reader as an advance in assistive technology.

However, the device retails at £999. A much larger portable capture station can be purchased for an additional £249 that is designed for use in schools, at home or in the workplace.

Judi Stewart, chief executive of the BDA, said: “This is a really great thing for organisations to have, but for individual users it’s going to be a bit out of their scope.

“The price is a bit of a barrier to begin with, but we hope that Intel will sell it well and eventually be able to bring the price down so that it is more accessible.”

At the launch, Foss challenged businessman Richard Branson, who is dyslexic, to try out the product. He said “If he doesn’t love the reader, Intel will wash one of his planes.”