Spiel is an open source screen reader for the Android operating system that runs on a variety of ARM and X86 mobile devices. The name “Spiel” is pronounced roughly like “Spill” and is translated from English as “chatter,” idle talk.
The program is distributed on a non-commercial basis under the terms of the free Apache 2.0 license .
Spiel provides access to the main controls and widgets of the operating system through speech output, built on top of the standard Android text-to-speech service.
The program provides a number of possibilities for advanced control of speech synthesis, in particular, you can configure the use of a voice engine other than the system-wide one, and also, if the speech synthesizer supports this, set a correction factor for changing the pitch and speech rate.
The application is designed to work in the background and does not provide extensive opportunities to interact with it directly, which may seem strange for users accustomed to the concept of non-visual access on alternative systems, where, as a rule, a significant list of hotkeys or gestures to control the parameters of the screen reader is provided. This fact is due to both some features of the Android operating system and the concept of Spiel itself, which assumes that there are no obstacles on its part to using the device using methods that are standard for users without physical limitations.
Nevertheless, Spiel provides some possibilities for controlling the program without opening its settings, which are based on the use of an accelerometer and a proximity sensor. In particular, they can be used to perform such operations as muting the speech of a program, reloading it, or creating an accessibility event template for later script development.
The ability to write custom scripts is one of the most notable features of Spiel, since not every mobile screenreader is capable of this. In principle, a similar function is also available only in the outdated Mobile Speak Pocket program for Windows Mobile.
Spiel scripts for various applications can be automatically downloaded through a special Bazaar web service , as well as developed and run locally on your own device. That is, when installing the application, you can literally load the set of scripts you are interested in with just a few clicks, and make some program or function of the system more available for use in conjunction with Spiel.
Despite the fact that there is already an integrated screen reader for the Android operating system – TalkBack, developed under the auspices of Google Inc., Spiel is also quite popular among blind users of these devices.
Spiel localization is built on the standard principles of the Android OS, implying dynamic switching of the program interface language in synchronization with the language of the system itself. In one way or another, the program has been translated into nine languages, and the most complete are, in addition to basic English, German and Russian localizations, which are 100% translations. In addition, there is incomplete support for the Czech, Hungarian, Spanish, Swedish and Ukrainian languages, as well as even the Fula language (in an approximate order of decreasing the amount of translated strings).
Spiel is perhaps the fastest growing Android screenreader, fully integrating into the system, not inferior in this to standard TalkBack, and the project manager attentively listens to the needs of the user audience. Nevertheless, it should still be noted that the documentation of the program itself leaves much to be desired, both for ordinary users and for new developers, whom the project actively invites for cooperation. To get factual information, you often have to contact the developers through the official mail conference .
However, this drawback is typical for TalkBack, since of all screen readers for Android, only Mobile Accessibility has detailed user documentation, which is due to the commercial nature of this product. True TalkBack on Android 4.0 also received some general documentation, which may be partially useful for Spiel users as well.
The Android operating system is characterized by the fact that it provides the ability to simultaneously use several screen reader programs, which, in some cases, gives a synergistic effect, when a bunch of two simultaneously working screenreaders gives greater efficiency than when using any of them separately. Spiel fully fits into this concept, supporting simultaneous work with TalkBack. In the case of simultaneous launch with Mobile Accessibility, Spiel has a higher priority and suppresses the Codefactory program.
In terms of customization flexibility, Spiel is also the leader among all screen readers for Android, and this even without taking into account the significant potential for customization through scripts. However, the Accessibility Preferences add-on must be installed to access the Spiel menu.
On relatively old versions of Android (below 4.0.x), the Spiel program is the absolute leader, since, along with the above advantages, it also has a much faster operation. On newer versions of the system, the speed gap is subjectively less noticeable, but it can also turn out to be quite significant, especially on relatively weak devices.
Spiel can be installed on Android 2.2 and higher and is available for free for download via the Play Market or as an unsigned package directly on the official website of the project , however, the publication of releases on the program’s own website is often late.
In general, Spiel is, if not uniquely the most advanced screen reader for Android, then at least it has every opportunity to claim this status. Its main competitor is, rather, TalkBack, which is able to overtake Spiel at a short distance, when it implements new operating system capabilities before anyone else, but in a longer period Spiel, as a rule, implements the same functions, and more flexibly and efficiently.