Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cell Phones That Read

I heard this story on NPR today:
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.
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.

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 . . .


  1. Just what I've been waiting for - with a phone that reads, I'll actually be able to keep up on the feeds in my reader.


  2. Phones now a days are becoming more and more outrageous in my mind. Being a 19 year old and going through this technology launch I sometimes find myself falling more and more behind on how to work things because of how high tech it's all becoming. My parents always find ways to let me know how much more lazy our generation is becoming with all the things that we no longer have to manually do. Even with all of this I find it really amazing how people can come up with ways for thing like cell phones to navigate the internet and read printed text for people. I am very interested to see what types of things are out when I am in my later years.

  3. lwill231,

    I appreciate your comment about how you are looking forward to see what the future holds. If you feel like you are falling farther and farther behind with the changes in technology, imagine being a 52-year-old Baby Boomer! :-)

    For the most part, I find it exciting to see the changes. I particularly like the videos Karl Fisch has posted on this blog entitled "Shifts Happen" and "2020 Vision." If you haven't seen them, check them out on his June 22, 2007 post. Once I learned about the videos, I wrote about them in my November 20th post.

    Also, I wrote this in my blog after reading the NPR story on cell phones:

    "As assistive technology continues to make life easier for many people with a multitude of disabilities, we are just in the beginning stages of what is to come.

    Personally, I really like my voice-recognition software which is enabling me to write the book and some of these blog entries. As someone with a severe disability, it's very exciting for me to see these new products."

    You can check out the rest of my blog posts at: http://iamnotdoneyet.blogspot.com.

    I wish you well.


    Mike Patrick