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Talking Geiger counter developed for blind

An association for the blind will sell a Geiger counter that reads out levels, while Toshiba develops a radiation hot-spot camera.

A talking Geiger counter. Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Visually impaired people can soon start taking readings of radiation levels in Japan with a Geiger counter that announces its readings with a computer voice.

The Fukushima Prefectural Association of the Blind, based in the same prefecture as the leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, helped create the Talking Geiger Counter based on the Geiger Fukushima from Sanwa Manufacturing.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is set to declare Friday that the Fukushima plant has been brought to a state of cold shutdown, meaning it has been cooled enough so nuclear reactions are not occurring and little radiation is being emitted.

Toshiba's portable gamma ray camera. Toshiba

But the association believes people will want to buy the Geiger counter when it starts accepting orders next month.

Priced at 50,000 yen ($640), the device can measure radiation up to 400 microsieverts per hour. It reads out the measurements with a synthetic female voice. The company says it's the world's first such device, though that is difficult to verify.

Toshiba, meanwhile, announced it has developed a portable gamma ray camera that can reveal local hot spots of radiation.

The 21-pound prototype can display hot spots on a laptop screen as colorful pixels overlaid on footage. Toshiba plans to test the device with Fukushima City this month and to discuss its use with the central and local governments early in 2012.

Residents of Tokyo and Yokohama have been alarmed in recent months with the discovery of areas of high radiation far from Fukushima. Radioactive strontium-90 was discovered on the rooftop of an apartment building in Yokohama, the first such find outside of Fukushima Prefecture.