Device That Reads Books

Intel Reader (Credit: Intel)
Intel reminded us this week that we are, by 1960’s issues of Popular Mechanics standards, living in The Future. Check out the little device above…know what it does? It reads book…from photos. You snap a photo of a page of text, and this device reads the text to you out loud. That, my friend, is capital-s Science in action. See the Gizmodo article for additional photos and a demonstration video of the device in action.

Ray Kurzweil demonstrated similar technology three years ago at the Singularity Summit at Stanford. As I summarized his demo at the time:

Using the device, Ray took a picture of the page with the device and had it read the page aloud on his behalf. This is apparently a project that Ray started working on with the National Federation of the Blind about five years ago, but at the time the technology was not sufficiently advanced to enable the application. At the time of original investigation, digital cameras didn’t have enough resolution to enable good pattern recognition, and pattern recognition algorithms had not yet been designed to handle the difficult environment in which such a device would need to operate. All this changed in the intervening five years.

And it would appear that it has changed again in the intervening three years. Not only is it possible, the solution is relatively cheap ($1500) and readily available as a consumer product. Interestingly, it appears that this is not an updated version of the device Kurzweil demonstrated. Kurzweil is, in fact, working on a competing device called the KNFB Reader. Not only is the future here, it has competitors!