Kurzweil and the National Federation for the Blind have announced the Kurzweil-National Federation for the Blind Reader, a handheld reader which can take pictures of everyday printed materials and read those items to visually impaired users using a combination of character recognition and speech synthesis software.
Users just hold the reader over the printed materials, and in a few seconds the reader takes a picture of the item and begins reading back the document. The reader can store thousands of printed pages (expandable via SD memory cards) and can transfer files to both computers and Braille notetakers, and read files transferred to it from computers and other devices; the reader also sports a headphone jack so users can more easily hear the reader over background noise, and use the system without disturbing others.
A handheld reader for the visually impaired opens up a world of everyday possibilities that sighted individuals often take for granted: the ability to check receipts, glance at business cards, reader restaurant menus, confirm tickets, and much more. The Kurzweil portable reader was demonstrated at the June 2005 conference of the NFB; this year, the unit will actually be available for sale, albeit at a price which would startle most consumer electronics aficionados: retail pricing is expected to start at $3,495, with availability scheduled for July 1, 2006.
Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said:”The world of the printed word is about to be opened to the blind in a wayit has never been before. No other device in the history of technology forthe blind and visually impaired has provided quicker access to moreinformation. The NFB promotes a positive attitude towards blindness, andthis Reader will make blind and visually impaired people dramatically moreindependent. The result will be better performance at work, at school, athome, and everywhere else we go. This Reader substantially improves thequality of life for the growing number of blind and visually impairedpeople.”