Amazing Technology-The Kurzweil Reader
The Kurzweil Reader is so named because it was invented by Raymond Kurzweil in 1976. He is a fascinating, brilliant person and I was blown away reading what all he has accomplished. The Kurzweil Reader makes printed or electronic text available to the blind or visually impaired. The software scans text and converts it into a variety of natural-sounding voices that can be modified to suit individual preferences. In addition, it provides users with document creation and editing as well as study skills capabilities for note taking, summarizing and outlining text. Other products include the Kurzweil 3000 (available in Windows and Macintosh), a reading, writing and learning software for struggling students, including individuals with dyslexia, learning difficulties, or those who are learning English. NC is one of the states that have approved Kurzweil 3000 as an accommodation for state-wide testing.
Charlotte's Metrolina Association for the Blind has a website which listed some statistics, but I found it most interesting that at least 1.5 million blind and visually impaired Americans use computers. The Virtual Village at the Main Branch of PLCMC actually has a Kurzweil Reader (List of all their assistive technologies- http://www.plcmc.org/beyondBooks/adaptiveTech.htm
). The manager for the Virtual Village said the Reader is only used about once a month, possibly because several local colleges (UNCC, Davidson, Johnson and Wales...) also have one?
A handheld version has been tested over the past year and was released in July 2006. The Kurzweil-NFB Reader, which costs around $3,000, combines a small, 5-megapixel Canon camera to an ASUS A730 PDA. They are wired together and held by a vinyl case about 6 inches by 3 inches by 2 1/2 inches. It's all operated with just nine buttons, with voice prompts from a small speaker or through earphones.
Article about the K-NFB Reader- http://www.tracecenter.org:8080/mailarchive/uaccess-l/msg02940.shtml
Photo of the Kurzweil Reader- http://www.lcc.edu/library/accessibility-tools/kurzweil-reader-photo.htm
Biography of Raymond Kurzweil- http://www.kurzweiltech.com/aboutray.html
Article about the Kurzweil 3000 being used in higher education- http://www.campus-technology.com/article.asp?id=6995