Kurzweil set to unveil portable reader for the blind

Even though we've seen atonofproductsdesignedtoaidthevisually-impairedintheirdailylives, technology still has a long way to go before disabled folks are able to enjoy a completely unrestricted lifestyle, which is why inventor/visionary Ray Kurzweil has spent the last quarter-century building devices that make reading easier for the blind. His latest invention, called the K-NFB, is basically a five megapixel digital camera attached to the back of a Windows Mobile 5.0-powered PDA, which is loaded with software that uses optical character recognition and text-to-speech technology to read aloud the words contained in user-captured photos. Once it's called into action, the $4,860 device supplies the operator with an initial "situation report" that attempts to describe whatever's in the camera's field of vision; if the report indicates that the desired text is within range, owners can then choose to snap a photo and listen to the resulting translation. Although the K-NFB is scheduled to be released soon by the UK's Sight & Sound, several technical issues -- most importantly, the software's difficulty in understanding inverted (white-on-black) text -- still have to be ironed out before it's available to the public.

[Thanks, Megan]