Project Details

Close up of book pages being flipped through creating blurred text


Serving challenged learners through assistive technology software.

By Cambium Learning Group

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Organisation Twitter: @@CambiumTech

  • Education
  • Social Exclusion
  • Data
  • Social Software

In the early 70s a technology called “optical character recognition” (OCR) was developed. It was essentially a computer program that could recognise printed letters. But at that time, it was only capable of recognising one specialised font. In 1974 a tech-man called Ray Kurzweil changed all of that and developed the first OCR program that could recognise any style of print. As he put it, the question for him quickly became "What is this good for? Like a lot of clever computer software, [I had] a solution in search of a problem".

Several weeks later, Ray was on a flight and found that he was sitting next to a blind gentleman. They got to talking over the in-flight refreshments, as you do, and the man explained to him that the only genuine handicap he felt was an inability to read normal printed materials – like, say, the in-flight magazine. It was clear that he was not put off travelling or communicating with others. Suddenly the new technological capability that Ray had created had a purpose. The world’s first reading machine was prototyped shortly after by Ray’s company Kurzweil Educational Systems, by combining OCR with a scanner and text-to-speech synthesis – in other words a simulated voice. Its first customer was Stevie Wonder.

Fast forward to 2014, and the product has gone through many iterations and innovations. The newest software, the Kurzweil 3000, is built on the same principles but has been expanded to provide not only reading support, but also writing and test taking. It’s a whole suite of services. And the clientele has broadened as well – Kurzweil 3000 is particularly useful for those who struggle with dyslexia. Kurzweil Education Systems is now the leading developer of technology for the blind, visually impaired and dyslexic.

Image 'flipping through the pages' courtesy of Samantha Celera

Last updated: 09th of May, 2014

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