OCR to the Rescue: Device Reads Any Text for Blind

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Chalk up another innovation to Ray Kurzweil America’s leading inventor (and Lifeboat Foundation Advisor along with me).  This one is a simple and elegant solution to help the visually impaired.

Developed in conjunction with the National Federation of the Blind, the device (The Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader) is a digital camera that can photograph any text or sign and then digitally OCR it and read it outload to the user!  Quite a simple concept.

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Kurzweil recalls the invention of the First OCR Reader in 1974

“In 1974, computer programs that could recognize printed letters, called optical character recognition (OCR), were capable of handling only one or two specialized type styles. I founded Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc. that year to develop the first OCR program that could recognize any style of print, which we succeeded in doing later that year. So the question then became, ‘What is it good for?’ Like a lot of clever computer software, it was a solution in search of a problem…I had found the problem we were searching for—we could apply our ‘omni-font’ (any font) OCR technology to overcome this principal handicap of blindness.

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New System is Portable  “The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and Kurzweil Technologies, Inc. (KTI) have created the world’s first portable OCR device, that allows an ordinary page of text to be photographed and subsequently translated into voice. Over the last three decades there have been several computer-based solutions for translating OCR to voice, but none of them are portable.”

Click here for video of the device in action[wmv width="375" height="211"]http://mfile3.akamai.com/12032/asf/kurzweil.download.akamai.com/12032/knfbr/CNN_Device_opens_the_world_for_blind.asf[/wmv]

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