App that gives sight to the blind

App that gives sight to the blind
Highlights

Jonathan Mosen, who has been blind since birth, spent his evening snapping photos of packages in the mail, his son\'s school report and labels on bottles in the fridge.

  • It allows blind people to listen to an audio readback of printed text
  • KNFB Reader app will enable a new level of engagement in everyday life, say blind people

KNFB Reader appSan Francisco: Jonathan Mosen, who has been blind since birth, spent his evening snapping photos of packages in the mail, his son's school report and labels on bottles in the fridge. In seconds, he was listening to audio of the printed words the camera captured, courtesy of a new app on his Apple Inc iPhone.

"I couldn't believe how accurate it was," said Mosen, an assistive technology consultant from New Zealand. The new app that allows blind people to listen to an audio readback of printed text is receiving rave reviews after its first day of availability and is being heralded as a life-changer by many people. Blind people say the KNFB Reader app will enable a new level of engagement in everyday life, from reading menus in restaurants to browsing handouts in the classroom.

The $99 app is the result of a four decades-long relationship between the National Federation of the Blind and Ray Kurzweil, a well-known artificial-intelligence scientist and senior Google employee. According to its website, K-NFB Reading Technology Inc and Sensotec NV, a Belgium-based company, led the technical development of the app. Kurzweil, who demonstrated the app on stage at the NFB's annual convention in June, said it can replace a "sighted adviser".

Taking advantage of new pattern recognition and image- processing technology as well as new smartphone hardware, the app allows users to adjust or tilt the camera, and reads printed materials out loud. People with refreshable Braille displays can now snap pictures of print documents and display them in Braille near-instantaneously, said NFB spokesman Chris Danielsen.

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