Wednesday, January 30, 2008

All in One Cell Phone includes TTS

Our wonderful classroom SLP came in talking about this story from NPR yesterday and informed me that I should blog about it. She couldn't remember the name of the device, its designer or anything other than the fact that it was on NPR and that the text-to-speech was used on a bag of coffee (which it was).

(Luckily she didn't hear my comment wondering when they would come out with an instant replay cellphone for older folks with memory troubles, but since she reads this blog I am sure I will pay for that comment later.)

Turns out Kurzweil and NFB have created the worlds smallest text to speech device and installed it onto a Nokia cell phone. Tres cool! Also tres expensive. See the NPR story below:

January 29, 2008

Technology - Cell Phone Reads to the Blind

A new cell phone offers the smallest text-to-speech reading device ever
built, a device especially useful for people with impaired vision. The
phone and software come with a $2,000 price tag.

If you have normal vision and can read, there are thousands of things
you do every day without even thinking even about it, little problems
you solve with just a glance * like knowing which coffee bag in a
hotel is caffeinated or decaf.

James Gashel is blind, but he can get his caffeine fix with help from
his cell phone.

"All you have to do is snap a picture of the bag, and it tells you," he

Gashel is showing off his new phone in a hotel ballroom filled with
people who have come to check it out. Many are holding white canes, and
there's a guide dog resting by the wall. Everyone listens to the small
silver phone as Gashel holds it a few inches above a green rectangle.

"Taking picture ... detecting orientation," a digitized voice from the
phone says. "Processing U.S. currency image, please wait * $20."

The phone is loaded up with software developed by the company Gashel
works for * K-NFB Reading Technology, a joint venture between Kurzweil
Technologies and the National Federation of the Blind.

Besides reading labels and telling a $20 from a $10, the phone can read
pages of printed text.

Reading machines have been around for decades * this company already
makes a hand-held device. But this reader is the smallest yet * just 4
ounces and a few inches long. And it's in a high-end Nokia phone with
features like an MP3 player, high-speed data connection and a GPS
navigation system.

That's appealing to people like Mike Hanson, from Minnesota. He uses a
desktop reading machine for all kinds of things, including books, mail
and bills.

"I'm a lawyer, so I'll use it to read material related to cases I'm
working on," Hanson says.

But he never wanted a handheld reader before; he saw it as just one
more gadget to lug around. This multifunctional cell phone, though, is a
different story.

"It's next on my list of technology items to seriously consider," he says.

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