Just like audiobooks were protagonists of a revolution for the visually impaired to have access to their favorite books easily and fast, this app is aimed to make people´s life much better on a daily basis.
Have you ever heard this name before? Ray Kurzweil is an inventor (inducted to the US Hall of Fame of inventors in 2002), an influencer, a futurist, a man for whom barriers do not seem to exist. He has had a life full of adventures and has become the synonym of many great achievements in every field he has ever been. You might have heard about the Kurzweil synthesizers. Well, they are the product of an interaction between the star singer, songwriter and multi-talented Stevie Wonder who also happens to be visually impaired. Ray Kurzweil is the father of the text-to-speech technologies through synthesized voices. He created his first reading technology in 1974 to help blind people. His idea developed into a machine called Kurzweil Reading Machine unveiled to the world in 1976.
This was the beginning of a non-stop journey that brings us to the KNFB Reader. The acronym is for Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind. The reader was a joint effort between them. The first incarnation came in the form of a digital camera and a PDA with speech synthesizers attached to an OCR software. It was $3,495 when it came out. The Symbian operating system adopted it short after and became available for the N82 Nokia Camera Phones for $1,595. Finally, we reach the nowadays version at $99 available for iOS only originally but with an Android version now.
KNFB Reader App
The KNFB reader app is very simple to use but is designed to solve many problems for those who are visually impaired. For example, do you know how many restaurants have their menu written in braille? Have you got any idea how many magazines and newspapers have their braille or sound version short after being published? Well, the percentages are astonishingly low, reducing the autonomous access to information by the visually impaired.
The use of the app is very simple and is completely intuitive. It can do many things for the users, but the main one is to be able to take a picture at any given text and have the software read you back the text content on it. For example, a bar menu, or an internal memo in your company or even a flyer or a pamphlet given to you on the streets can be read out loud by the software. It guides the user on how to focus the camera with the paper containing the text until all borders are into place and the text is perfectly legible. Once you snap the photo, you can just listen back to what it tells you as if you were reading it.
Another capability is to upload multiple pages or load files from Dropbox so it can read them back to you.
The Price Tag
There has been some controversy about the price tag of the app. This is perfectly logic, since people is not used to paying that much of a high fee for an app that is actually an aid for the visually impaired. As much as France passed a law on 2006 to override copyright on the reproduction of books in alternative formats for the visually impaired, shouldn´t there be an economic aid, so the app was affordable by everyone? There are mixed opinions in this regard and most users are not only satisfied with the results but encouraging others to buy it too and use it on a daily basis.
Whether it´s audio books or reading software; every step given by human kind to bring equity to the access to information is welcome. Thanks to the combined effort of Hall of Fame inductee and visionary Ray Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind, the cost of the software went from over $3,000 to $99. Hopefully it will continue the same line and one day be free to all the visually impaired in the world.