The Homer Player is one of the most straightforward, elegantly simple, and delightful apps that I’ve stumbled upon. It hits all of the initial markers that I look for in Assistive Technology (AT):
- Actively updated
- Great customer support
- Does what it says it does with the least frills possible
(Sounds like boyfriend material. I wonder if this app is single. Har-har-har!)
What is the Homer Player?
Straight from their website, “An audiobook player for the elderly and visually impaired. Popular players are hard to use for the elderly. Especially if they struggle with poor eyesight and their motor skills aren’t as good as they used to be. Yet for many seniors listening to audiobooks becomes an alternative to reading that gets harder and harder as their sight deteriorates.”
What are its features?
When you read this list, think about who this player is designed for – people who find all of the other digital audio-book players difficult to use. With that in mind, this app provides the most basic of features, no more and no less than what the user absolutely needs.
- Audio book support – Playback is geared towards audiobooks with folder-based navigation. The folder name is the title. Subfolders are treated as part of the same book (useful for books that come on multiple CDs).
- Resume where stopped – Playback is resumed where you have left off. And with the jump back feature it actually goes back 15s earlier to remind you the last sentence or two. The position is stored for each book separately so you can safely switch between several books.
- Low vision friendly interface – Book titles are read out loud when browsing. The buttons are large and with high contrast.
- Flip-to-stop – There’s no need to press any buttons to stop playback—just put the device on a level surface with its screen down.
- Adjust speed – Slow down playback for those who are hard of hearing or need more time to understand speech (e.g. after a stroke).
- Single application mode (kiosk mode) – With the kiosk mode enabled the user’s actions are confined to the application and no other functions of the device are available. This way a multipurpose tablet can be converted into a simple to use, single purpose audiobook player. The other functions of the device don’t become a distraction to the user.
My muse for this project was an ASUS Nexus from 2012. I barely use it and wanted to give it a new life and purpose other than collecting dust in my living room. I already have a bookworm with macular degeneration in mind for this project. She currently uses a Talking Book Player but wants something she can store all of her favorite audio-books on to access them whenever she wants.
The Homer Player gives users two options for using this app: download the Homer Player app from Google Play and use it when you need it, or download the Homer Player app and lock it in kiosk mode. The latter of the two takes a little more time, but is definitely worth it for anyone who would get lost or confused using a tablet otherwise. (Do not worry! The directions for both options are mapped out beautifully on the Homer Player’s website.)
I took on the kiosk mode challenge and was happy with the results. Both installing the app, downloading books, and using the app were quick and easy. To initially download and set-up this app an individual would need the technical proficiency and confidence of someone who can build an IKEA shelf and create an email account. Other than that, there’s really not much to say but good things about the Homer Player. It provides what it promises.
Go to their website – they’ve included all of the tutorials and FAQ you can think of to make your Homer Player experience a positive one. https://msimonides.github.io/homerplayer/index.html