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

Dinesh Kaushal dineshkaushal at hotmail.com
Mon Jul 23 07:22:13 EDT 2007


Although I have not tested this, But I think one need not spend big money on
Kurzweil NFB reader, as there seem to be some other good options 

These days most of the mobile phones are equipped with powerful cameras, and
N95 is available with 5 MegaPixel camera, which is same as the one in
Kurzweil NFB reader.
 
Now we only need some OCR software which can work on Symbian phones, and
following is one such software, we can certainly search for others, I found
it on My Symbian website.

http://my-symbian.com/s60/software/applications.php?fldAuto=1477&faq=18

QuickTextScan by JSS Computing is an OCR application written in Java MIDP.
The program captures text from a notebook computer screen or print-out using
the cell phone's
built-in camera. After scanning is complete the recognized text is presented
in a text box for editing.


Regards
Dinesh Kaushal

blog at 
dineshkaushal.blogspot.com

-----Original Message-----
From: accessindia-bounces at accessindia.org.in
[mailto:accessindia-bounces at accessindia.org.in] On Behalf Of Atul R Sahay
Sent: Sunday, July 22, 2007 6:17 PM
To: accessindia at accessindia.org.in
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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