K–NFB Reading Technology, a joint venture between Kurzweil Technologies and the National Federation of the Blind, has propelled reading technology forward for the last 30 years with the invention of omnifont OCR, flatbed scanners, text-to-speech technology, and reading machines for the blind. Now K-NFB is redefining the boundaries of the printed word via Blio – a new generation in eReading software. This free application works across platforms and presents books as they are intended: in full color and as laid out by the publisher.
The goal for the Blio Windows Phone 7 project was to provide a mobile version of a smart, intelligent e-reader that provides the same layout, fonts, and full-color images that you enjoy in the print version of your favorite titles. Blio also provides the ability to read aloud to the user, highlighting each word as it goes, so you can follow along. This and much more was accomplished by a combined Wintellect and K-NFB team using Microsoft’s latest client technologies.
Blio is a showcase e-reader both in the application space as well on the technical platforms it is built upon. Because of its importance to Kurzwiel and the National Federation of the Blind, Blio needed to look, feel, and perform better than anything else on the market. Wintellect used proven patterns and best practices during the development of Blio, implementing an engaging look and feel that also performs wonderfully. Blio has been successfully released in several different variations including a WPF application available for free download and a specialized version customized to run specifically on Toshiba laptops. The Windows Phone 7 Blio release successfully leveraged the existing Silverlight technology on the desktop to create an engaging, immersive experience on the phone.
K–NFB needed a partner that was highly skilled in Silverlight on both the desktop and the phone. K-NFB had a critical business need to get Blio developed on a timely schedule and done right the first time. Wintellect has a proven track record of delivering best of breed solutions on both platforms, and we have been involved in and delivering solutions for Silverlight and Windows Phone 7 since their inception.
The Blio project for the Windows Phone 7 platform represented a challenging technical application for a small form-factor device with touch capability. An e-reader has a surprisingly large degree of complexity around user interaction, input, and rendering on a standard platform, but even more so on a small display.
Much of the development success can be attributed to best practices such as a clear separation of concerns using the MVVM (Model-View-ViewModel) pattern and UI virtualization. Specifically, usage of the MVVM pattern allowed for faster time to market due to cleaner source that was more conducive to the team development environment. This separation facilitated code reuse and sharing through the different technology platforms. Additional successes came in the form of increased productivity via best practices for localization, accessibility, and general user interface construction guidelines for visuals in a small form-factor touch application.