07. 25. 2006
NFB and Kurzweil roll out pocket sized Reader to aid the blind
I received an email from the National Federation of the Blind today, and I wanted to throw some props to the NFB and Ray Kurzweil for a job well done. Their K-NFB Reader will "read" almost any text by running snapshots through sophisticated optical character recognition (OCR) systems. By interfacing a digital camera with a PDA, the NFB team was able to combine existing text-to-speech solutions with the portability needed for mobile applications. The device is able to index captured images with thirty second voice annotation to assist in locating specific documents. Data storage is upgradable via standard SD cards, and there's even a headphone jack for discreet listening.
Stevie Wonder actually had the first Kurzweil Reading Machine produced . . . in 1978. After seeing Ray on TV, Mr. Wonder came over to the factory and begged them to make him a reading machine. The engineers managed to assemble a machine that day, and Stevie took off with it in a taxi.
It's no secret that digitizing scanners gets me very excited. Considering that OCR technology was developed in 1950 to help government code breakers scan large amounts of cyphertext, this just proves that the best uses of technology aren't always in the blueprints. A lot of nifty ideas can be discovered in the secondary discussions that come up over cocktails and cupcakes.