Amazon already uses IVONA technology on the Kindle Fire, using the software to, for example, read user actions aloud or help navigate the touchscreen. Amazon might now integrate some of these features into its e-readers. (The Kindle Paperwhite lacks the experimental text-to-speech feature that was available on the older Kindle Touch.) But rumors that the company is working on a smartphone have been making their way around the internet for awhile, and that could be another use for this technology if the company is able to use it for voice-recognition technology to compete with Apple’s Siri.
Over the past few years, various advocacy organizations for blind people — most prominently, the National Federation for the Blind — have sued or protested against Amazon as it attempts to sign deals with school districts and universities to bring Kindle devices into classrooms. The organizations argue that Kindle e-readers and ebooks are inaccessible to blind students and are thus prohibited from use in public schools by federal law. More recently, advocacy by the National Federation for the Blind may have been a factor in the scuttling of a multi-million dollar deal between Amazon and the U.S. State Department to provide Kindles to overseas programs. If Amazon is able to integrate text-to-speech technology into more of its devices, the company might be able to avoid some of these actions.