National Federation of the Blind Unveils Handheld Electronic Reader

BALTIMORE - The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) unveiled a new device, the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader. The portable Reader, developed by the National Federation of the Blind and inventor Ray Kurzweil, enables users to take pictures of and read most printed materials at the click of a button. Users merely hold "the camera that talks" over print and they hear the contents of the printed document played back in synthetic speech. Combining a digital camera with a personal data assistant, the Reader puts character-recognition software together with text-to-speech conversion technology in a handheld device.

The Reader offers people access to information, is portable, and can store thousands of printed pages with obtainable extra memory. Also users can transfer files to their desktop and laptop computers or to their Braille notetakers. The Reader has a headphone jack as well.

The National Federation of the Blind helped fund the development and production of the Reader and helped plan and design its user interface.

Gary Wunder, a computer programmer analyst with the University of Missouri Hospitals and Clinics in Columbia, Missouri, said: "This little machine has completely changed my awareness about the print around me and has given me access that I never dreamed possible before. It is amazing to go to a public event and actually read the program, to go to a work meeting and be able to read the handout which someone has forgotten to send to me in advance. What a thrill it is to take a business card and get the information from it quickly enough to remember why I took the card in the first place. For the first time in my life I looked at the magazines in the seat pocket of a commercial airliner, and reading a restaurant menu is awesome."

The Reader is the result of a joint venture between the NFB and Ray Kurzweil, chief executive officer of K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc.

Sales will be handled by Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc., based in Bedford, Mass., and its national distribution channel of dealers.


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