Kurzweil forecasts ‘the end of handicaps’

March 27, 2003 | Source: KurzweilAI

Northridge, CA — “Seeing machines” that provide real-time, intelligent descriptions of the world and “listening machine” sensory aids that convert spoken language in real-time to a visual display were among forecasts by Ray Kurzweil in a keynote at the California State University of Northridge (CSUN) “Technology and Persons with Disabilities” 2003 Conference.

The keynote, “The End of Handicaps,” focused on “the accelerating pace of technology, the handicaps associated with disabilities, and the role of technology as a great leveler in bridging the communication and mobility challenges associated with sensory and physical disabilities.”

The seeing machine will be “like a friend that could describe what is going on in the visible world,” he explained. “A blind user could ask the device (verbally or using manual commands) to elaborate on a description, or ask it questions. The visual sensors of such a device could be built into a pair of eyeglasses or pinned on the user’s lapel. These artificial eyes need not only look forward; they could also look in all directions.”

The listening machine will be able to recognize a large vocabulary (tens of thousands of words), recognize speakers that the system has not been trained on (“speaker independence”), and handle continuous speech, he added. The listening machine will also be able translate into other languages, so people who are not hearing impaired will want to use them. He demonstrated this “translating telephone” in a video clip.

A video of Kurzweil’s speech is available on Able TV, “the First Global TV Network for people with disabilities.”

Kurzweil is Chairman Emeritus of Kurzweil Educational Systems, an innovator of reading technology products for individuals with learning and visual disabilities. He also spoke at the company’s first Kurzweil 3000 User Group Meeting at the event. Kurzweil 3000 is Kurzweil Educational’s flagship product for struggling readers and writers.