New app gives sight to the blind!

A new app turns out to be groundbreaking for the visually impaired, by recognizing words better and reading them out loud.

That the smartphone has drastically changed our lives is beyond dispute. We almost cannot live without them anymore. However, the new KNFB Reader App could become indispensable for the visually impaired.

Photos taken with the new app, that just became available for iOS and will come out for Android in the coming months, uses smart algorithms to turn all the text in the image directly into audio and read this out loud.

Blind people can suddenly read lunch menus or restaurants opening hours. The purchasing price of  the app costs 90(!) dollars. Although it is a quite expensive app, realize what amount of money you would be willing to pay when you, for instance, will become blind. The first reactions to the app that costs 90 dollars, has been overwhelmingly positive.

The app uses new pattern algorithms, image processing technology and new smartphone hardware to immediately read the text out loud. The user can even take pictures at an angle or at Powerpoint slides at a distance of more than seven meters. With the app, a text can be photographed and converted into a Braille display.

The app is the result of a 40-year collaboration between the National Federation of the Blind and Ray Kurzweil, inventor and now Google employee. At that time, Kurzweil started to work on a reading machine for blind people. A few years later, Kurzweil came up with its first reading machine. Costing $50,000 and had the size of a washing machine.

Kurzweil is now experimenting the integration of the Google Glass, an ideal combination because the glasses with built-in camera is always pointing to what the user is trying to read. Do you think that this application can become groundbreaking?



2 responses to “New app gives sight to the blind!”

  1. 417858ww says :

    What an inspiring event! Students in business school have always been taught to satisfy customers’ needs in the market,but we seldom think about who are the people that really “need” something. Take iphone6 for an example, most of us want an iphone6, but we don’t need an iphone6. On the contrary, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, blind people’s needs for an “eye” to help them read may fall into the category of physiological need, which is a basic need of human beings.

    I notice that you use an exclamation mark when you mention the price of this app. Yes, it seems quite expensive, if we consider it’s an information good whose marginal cost is nearly zero. I can’t figure out the amount of their R&D expenditure on this app, so I don’t know whether they want to make profits from blind people or they just want to cover the upfront cost. However, I’m thinking about another business model. In my opinion, the app can also be used for reading books to kids, for helping the illiterates who can speak English but cannot read, and for some other purposes. Will it be better if the app is free of charge for the blinds and the illiterates while it is sold at appropriate prices to other customer groups?

    Recently I’ve also read an article about a relevant technology, Portable Eye Examination Kit (Peek), which scans eyes to help combat blindness. It aims to improve ophthalmic health in low-income countries by adapting smartphones with clip-on hardware and an app. Peek can conduct an eye test that previously required expensive machinery and trained staff to operate. It transforms the way that eye health is treated in low-income and hard to reach regions of the world.

    Information technology creates millionaires. It also creates chances for us to make our world a better place. I’m so glad to see that nowadays more and more firms consider social welfare and social responsibility in their strategies. I think it’s also a trend in our business world.

  2. rubenvdberg says :

    Thank you for your interesting comment!

    As you mentioned in your first paragraph, i found it also interesting what ‘human’ could do with the current information technology. Although Information Technology creates lots of millionaires, it also creates value to people who cannot see or hear. And therefore could create ‘priceless’ applications!

    I think it is very interesting that a new trend has born where we should use all our capabilities to help other people. This is possible by developing application as I mentioned above, but also by providing internet access to large parts of Africa.

    The price of the application I found shocking compared to the average prices of applications in Apple’s App store. Unfortunately, i could not find what the R&D costs of this application were. But I do not think, reading the background and history of the founder, he will use the money to become a personal millionaire. And if I were blind, I would be willing to pay a 100 euros to give me some sort of sight!

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