[AI] Braille Monitor on Kurzweil-National Federation of the BlindReader

pamnani kanchanpamnani at hotmail.com
Sun Jul 22 12:56:58 EDT 2007


Does anybody have more recent information. Have the bugs been removed or 
ironed out
Has the cost been reduced?
Kanchan

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Atul R Sahay" <arsahay at accessindia.org.in>
To: <accessindia at accessindia.org.in>
Sent: Sunday, July 22, 2007 18:17
Subject: [AI] Braille Monitor on Kurzweil-National Federation of the 
BlindReader


> This article is about an year old. Am posting it for those who may not 
> have read it.
>
> Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader
>
>
>
> Braille Monitor 
> July 2006
>
>
>
> The Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader
>
> The Revolution Is Here!
>
>
>
> by James Gashel
>
>
>
>>From the Editor: Jim Gashel is the executive director for strategic 
>>initiatives for the National Federation of the Blind. He has been as 
>>involved as anyone
>
> in the planning and development of the Kurzweil-National Federation of the 
> Blind Reader. Now that the beta testing period is drawing to a close, it 
> seemed
>
> appropriate to ask him to make the announcement of the extraordinary 
> results of the collaboration between technological genius and the 
> knowledge and expertise
>
> of blind people. This is what he says:
>
>
>
> David Wright holds the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader.
>
>
>
> In 1975 Ray Kurzweil invented the first multi-font optical character 
> recognition (OCR) technology capable of converting printed characters into 
> full-word
>
> synthetic speech. This system, which was about the size of a small 
> dishwasher, was called the Kurzweil Reading Machine. Joining with Ray 
> Kurzweil to test
>
> and launch this product, the NFB secured financial support to purchase six 
> preproduction units at a cost of $50,000 each. This technology was unique 
> and
>
> revolutionary in its time.
>
>
>
> Personal computers were not widely available and were not a mass-consumer 
> product in the 1970's, so the original Kurzweil Reading Machine was a 
> stand-alone,
>
> dedicated reading system with its own internal computer and built-in 
> scanner. Today the more modern version of the same technology--the 
> Kurzweil 1000--is
>
> computer software running on a standard desktop PC connected to a scanner.
>
>
>
> Although a certain amount of competition has developed over the last 
> thirty years, the Kurzweil Reading Machine and its offspring have been 
> widely regarded
>
> as the gold standard in text-to-speech conversion technology. However, 
> having this technology in a completely portable form has been an 
> unrealized dream.
>
> That was true until March 2006, when blind people throughout the United 
> States started to learn about and use the world's first handheld, 
> text-to-speech
>
> electronic reading system for the blind. This is called the 
> Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader.
>
>
>
> The name says it all. Unlike the Kurzweil Reading Machine, named for Ray 
> Kurzweil as its inventor, the portable Reader has been designed by Ray 
> Kurzweil
>
> and the National Federation of the Blind. Therefore this device bears both 
> names. This name also symbolizes the fact that the blind themselves have 
> played
>
> a leading role in making the world's first completely portable reader a 
> reality.
>
>
>
> The Reader combines the latest state-of-the-art digital camera technology 
> with a powerful personal data assistant (PDA). These components are housed 
> in
>
> a custom-designed vinyl case that also contains internal circuitry to 
> connect the camera and PDA to operate as a single system. Aside from this 
> hardware,
>
> the software is completely new in blindness technology, with several 
> features especially designed for this unique device.
>
>
>
> Here are some of the vital statistics: the Reader is 6 inches long, 3 
> inches wide, and 2-1/2 inches thick and weighs 15 ounces. Although the 
> Reader is about
>
> a thousand times smaller than the original Kurzweil Reading Machine, the 
> PDA in the portable Reader is two thousand times faster. In fact, the 
> portable
>
> Reader can execute about 500 million instructions per second as compared 
> to 250,000 instructions per second for the Kurzweil Reading Machine. It 
> also has
>
> a thousand times more memory (64 megabytes as compared to 64 kilobytes).
>
> But the real difference is to have the power of reading in the palm of 
> your hand. Here are a few reactions from early users known as "Reader 
> ambassadors"
>
> and "Reader pioneers":
>
>
>
> Dwight Sayer: I have a neat story. Last week my BrailleNote rep came over 
> to bring my GPS unit and some software. She had gotten the disks mixed up, 
> and
>
> no one sighted was around. She couldn't tell which one was mine. I said, 
> "Wait a second . . ." I picked up a disk and shot a picture just pointing 
> the
>
> Reader straight at it. . . . In a few seconds the Reader just rattled off 
> the text on the CD, and I found I had my software right in my hands. The 
> rep,
>
> who was drooling by that time, spent the next hour or so testing the 
> Reader on everything from her checkbook to a receipt she had in her purse. 
> By the
>
> way the ATM receipts that pop out of our great ATM machine at the National 
> Center were read with ease as I was wondering what my balance was. . . . 
> This
>
> little machine is a keeper!
>
>
>
> Diane McGeorge investigates the navigation controls of the 
> Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader.
>
>
>
> Ron Gardner: The first thing I did with the Reader was go around my home 
> snapping photos of the wall hangings. My grandchildren have given us some 
> very
>
> precious quotes which are contained in framed hanging art. The quotes are 
> covered with glass, and I wondered if the glass would reflect too much 
> light.
>
> I am happy to report that the Reader worked with or without the flash, and 
> the glass did not prevent a great job. It was terrific to be able to read 
> these
>
> things from my grandchildren!
>
>
>
> Ramona Walhof: I demonstrated the Reader at my Lions Club this morning. I 
> started with the Idaho Potato Cookbook, which it does very well. It also 
> read
>
> the restaurant menu quite well, although it was green print on white 
> inside plastic. The Lions were more than astonished by its performance.
>
>
>
> Amber Chesser: After over a month of anticipation and after a week of 
> reading about everyone's experiences, I finally began using my Reader on 
> Friday afternoon.
>
> What a wonderful beginning it was, and what a wonderful weekend of reading 
> I have had! The Reader exceeded my expectations from the moment I took it 
> out
>
> of the box. It looked completely different from anything I had imagined. . 
> . . The unit is not bulky or too large; I definitely plan to carry it to 
> all
>
> of my university classes as well as to concerts, meetings, and anywhere 
> else I go every day.
>
>
>
> I was also quite surprised at the accuracy with which I took the pictures 
> from the start. . . .I could write a lengthy post brimming with 
> enthusiastic descriptions
>
> of everything that I read over the weekend. . . . I recognize that there 
> are definitely developments to be made, but at this time the marvelous 
> designers
>
> and developers have hit the nail on the head. Thanks, National Federation 
> of the Blind, for the honor of being a tester and for such an exciting 
> creation!
>
>
>
> Karl Smith: I just had to write one more time about my experiences at CSUN 
> with the Reader. This morning I attended a session discussing the future 
> of accessibility
>
> for portable computer platforms. This was more or less a discussion 
> session with not a whole lot of substance. During the presentation the 
> presenter mentioned
>
> that the NFB was about to announce the new Reader. Being much like a proud 
> grandpa with new pictures of his grandkids, I pulled my machine out and 
> waved
>
> it over my head. The presenter acknowledged that someone in the room 
> actually had one. The fun started after the end of the presentation. I was 
> suddenly
>
> surrounded by a large group of people wanting to see the Reader and know 
> how it worked. Someone gave me a legal-sized piece of print to read. . . A 
> short
>
> time later my trusty Reader began reading information on augmentative 
> communication. Everyone listened very quietly because of the low volume of 
> the PDA
>
> speakers, while the reading kept going and going with pretty much flawless 
> results.
>
>
>
> It was then that the man who gave me the paper admitted that he had 
> purposely given me what he considered to be a particularly awful piece of 
> material to
>
> scan. It was a printout of a half dozen or so PowerPoint slides from 
> another presentation. For me it was another one of those dream demos. It 
> went perfectly,
>
> and everyone was very excited. . . . Several of the people said that this 
> was the best part of the session. Folks, this thing is . . . the beginning 
> of
>
> a revolution. Rarely does a piece of technology by itself really represent 
> the beginning of an entirely new era for the blind. This one does just 
> that
>
> . . . man, this thing is fun.
>
>
>
> Vickie Saucier: I have now had my Reader for three days, and I agree with 
> Gary. You're not getting it back except for repairs, if needed. I've 
> experienced
>
> all the problems and limitations that everyone else has mentioned. When 
> Jim first demonstrated it, I was in tears, and I still feel that way. At 
> the first
>
> brief demonstration by my representative, I was terrified and thought that 
> I'd never be able to use it. Changing that battery seemed difficult: 
> remembering
>
> the commands, focusing, flash cards, etc. really caused me some alarm, 
> since I am not a teckie like some of you. However, I mastered all those 
> things except
>
> for the flash card (I just have to read the instruction manual, and I'll 
> know how to do that too). I even demonstrated how to do all those things 
> to another
>
> pioneer who didn't attend the demonstration. I am looking forward to all 
> the future improvements, but for now I'm happy reading those Jell-O boxes 
> and
>
> cleaning a bookshelf in my office without sighted assistance. It goes 
> everywhere with me, and next week it's going to see Mickey with me and my 
> grandson
>
> at one of my favorite places on the planet, Disney World.
>
>
>
> Juliett Cody: Yes, the Reader is good on bulletin boards. I did it on 
> campus today, and I was pleased. I was looking for scholarship 
> applications, so the
>
> postings were as large as a regular page. I must admit it was wonderful to 
> walk into the scholarship office and not have to wait until someone could 
> help
>
> me. I love the Reader, and, like I said before, I am not returning it.
>
>
>
> Ron Brown: On April 22 the Indiana State Library held a technology fair. 
> The NFB of Indiana was invited to show off NEWSLINE, so I decided to take 
> the Reader
>
> to the technology fair without any forewarning to the host. I charged up 
> my Reader, got together some prearranged documents to read, and went to 
> the fair.
>
> When I got to our booth, I set up shop and waited for the participants to 
> come by. It took only a few minutes for word to spread that the Reader was 
> there.
>
>
>
> Needless to say, the Reader was a big hit. Ours became the most popular 
> booth at the fair. Not only did the participants stop by, so did the other 
> presenters.
>
> The Reader and I worked from 10:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. nonstop. It worked 
> this long without my having to charge the battery. I had to change the 
> camera
>
> battery only once. Some of the people that gathered around started handing 
> me other documents to read. I took those documents and shot pictures of 
> them,
>
> and the Reader performed like a champ. I started grabbing Kernel books off 
> the table and any other document in sight to read. Yes, I threw caution to 
> the
>
> wind and went for it. When I opened a Kernel Book and held it away from me 
> up in the air; one guy from the crowd stated, "He's holding the book 
> upside
>
> down," and I shot the picture anyway. The Reader read the page about Mount 
> Everest being the tallest mountain in the world. I guess the Kernel Book 
> story
>
> I grabbed was "The Summit." The crowd went wild. I was told three people 
> asked how they could join the NFB.
>
>
>
> All in all it was a beautiful day, and the Reader was a big hit. I have 
> the sore feet and the loss of my voice from talking so much to prove it.
>
>
>
> James Solem: Recently I passed my prelim exams for my Ph.D. Needless to 
> say, the work has just begun. Yet the Kurzweil-National Federation of the 
> Blind
>
> Reader is making it possible. With the use of the Reader I was able to 
> complete the proposal, research prospectus, human subject review summary 
> form, and
>
> the informed consent form. Before having access to the Reader, I was 
> unable to read italics. The Reader does an outstanding job of enabling the 
> blind to
>
> complete legal documents.
>
>
>
> I am currently scanning research information that I have pulled from 
> numerous libraries. I can read it remotely at the university library, 
> study hall, gym,
>
> or home. This has freed me from having to need a reader to complete my 
> dissertation. I finally feel like I have a tool that has made me 
> independent and
>
> equal with my sighted peers.
>
>
>
> These comments indicate an overall positive response among early users of 
> the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader, and we are only at 
> the dawn
>
> of this exciting new technology. Imagine what the future has in store for 
> us with this technology we have created to meet our needs. Now that the 
> Reader
>
> we have dreamed about is real, we have the opportunity and the ability to 
> build upon this new beginning and make our Reader an even more powerful 
> tool
>
> in the months and years ahead.
>
>
>
> Even with its present capacity, however, the Kurzweil-National Federation 
> of the Blind Reader reads most printed documents, from letters and memos 
> to pages
>
> in a book; reads address labels and instructions; reads an entire page or 
> just a few lines of text for identification; and provides easy access to 
> restaurant
>
> menus. The Reader even reads play or concert programs, instructions for 
> appliances, and numbers on lottery tickets--the possibilities are endless.
>
>
>
> There are hundreds of uses for the Reader every day. No other device in 
> the history of technology for the blind has provided quicker access to 
> more printed
>
> information than the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader. The 
> world of the printed word is about to be opened to the blind in a way it 
> has
>
> never been before. Get ready; the revolution begins today!
>
>
>
> For more information contact the National Federation of the Blind Reader 
> information and sales line at (877) 708-1724. A limited number of Readers 
> are available
>
> at a special inaugural discount of $200 below the expected retail price of 
> $3,495.
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