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.If you listen to the NPR broadcast, you can hear what it sounds like when the cell phone "reads" part of a page of text - and the cheers from the audience (about the 1:47 mark). Pretty cool. Oh, by the way, yes it's that same Kurzweil that I reference in Did You Know?/Shift Happens.
"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.
Now, it's still very expensive, about $2000 for the cell phone (Nokia N82) and the software, but I imagine that will come down quickly. I'm thinking some schools may have to adjust their cell phone policies pretty soon . . .