A new talking camera promises to open up the world of print for blind and visually-impaired people, and can claim ergonomic credentials because it will allow them to lead fuller and more productive lives. Developed by inventor Ray Kurzweil for the United States National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the Kurzweil-NFB Reader enables sightless users to “read” most printed materials
Users hold the Reader over any print document, such as a letter, bill, restaurant menu, airline ticket, business card, or office memo, and in seconds they hear the contents of the printed document read to them in a clear synthetic voice. Combining a high-definition digital camera with a personal data assistant, the Reader combines character-recognition software together and text-to-speech conversion technology in a single handheld device.
“The world of the printed word is about to be opened to the blind in a way it has never been before,” said NFB President Marc Maurer in a press release about the Reader. “No other device in the history of technology for the blind and visually impaired has provided quicker access to more information.” He explains that the Reader will promote a positive attitude towards blindness and make blind and visually-impaired people “dramatically more independent.”
The Reader offers people quick access to information, is portable, and can store thousands of printed pages with easily obtainable extra memory. Also users can transfer files to their desktop and laptop computers or to their Braille notetakers in minutes. The device has a headphone jack as well, so users do not have to disturb others in close proximity.
The Reader is the result of a joint venture between the NFB and Ray Kurzweil, chief executive officer of K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc. In 1999 Inventor Kurzweil received the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest honor in technology, from President Bill Clinton in a White House ceremony.
Readers went on sale on July 1 in the United States for US $3,495, a figure that is out of the reach of most of the world’s blind people, estimated to number 2.6 percent of the global population, but continuing technological developments promise to bring down the price for a wider base of users.
Source: National Federation of the Blind