September 19, 2006

Portable Document Reader

k-NFBI had somebody from Sight and Sound over last week to demo the new Kurzweil portable speaking scanner thingy – the K-NFB.

This is something I have been waiting for for some time and I was pretty impressed.

One of my (many, many many..) problems is that when I attend meetings either here or at other institutions, there are always documents that turn up at the last minute in print only.

Things have improced a little over the last few years as some people are switched on to disability but more usually I have to sit there while people pour over that critical document or try to guess what is on the Powerpoint presentations by what people say. How many tomes have I sat there while the presenter says “and as this quote says…” (Laughter from audience) or “Does everybpdy agree with this….?”.

Given the text in digital format in advamce or even the print handouts before I leave my office where I can scan and OCR them, I would be on equal footing but once at the venue, it is too late.

Not any more….

Or at least not any more if I get hold of one of these rather expensive gadgets.

The K-NFB is bascally a digital camera bolted on the back of a PDA. You point it at a page pf text and click. The photo is cpnverted into text which s then read to you as synthetic speech.

I tried it out on some pretty horrible text from a badly photocopied journal article to a Powerpoint handout with tiny text and it did amazingly well. This is, remember, being held above the document at all sorts of angles and in trembling hands. The reason the hands were trembling?

The price – £2625…. bit speep for a fairly cheap PDA and a fairly cheap camera connected by USB but the software that makes it all usable for somebody like me makes this one of the best gadgets I have seen for several years.

I want one, I want one, now.


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