I have been a user of Ray Kurzweil’s reading technology for almost 20 years.  The first Kurzweil reading machines were large and cumbersome, but at the time it was breakthrough technology.  About the size of a dish washer in the beginning, these machines allowed you to take a piece of paper or a book, scan it and then have the text read out in synthesized speech.  You could operate the machine through an attached keypad and were given several options as to what to do with the scanned in text.

I remember when I was introduced to a Kurzweil reader, I just couldn’t believe it!  For the first time in my life, I was able to read any book I wanted to from the library, though it did require a lot of time to scan in the books, about 2 minutes or more per page.  I had access to one at school and after hours, I would sit in the room and read to my heart’s content.  In college, I got one of my own, the Reading Edge, allowing me to scan in and read many of my textbooks.  At this point, I could even save the scanned document as a text file and load it onto a floppy disc for reading either on a computer or my portable note taker Braille and Speak.

Some time later, as computer technology advanced, Kurzweil developed software that could be loaded onto any PC and used with many regular scanners on the market.  Now the page scanning took less than a minute, depending on computer speed and scanner, and the resulting text would be on my PC, allowing me to do whatever I wanted with it.  The software had a built-in speech synthesizer that would read the text aloud, and its voice was actually very ear-friendly.  To this day, I use Kurzweil 1000 on my computer, taking advantage of the many enhancements they have made to it over the years.  I can even import a PDF file into this software and have the text recognized and read to me.  I can also export the text as an audio MP3 file, that can be listened to on my iPod.

But Kurzweil is not stopping there!  In order to keep up with emerging technologies such as the Kindle, Sony book reader and even the iPhone, there is a software which will be available soon called Blio.  This software can be loaded onto a computer or the iPhone and it will read electronic books you can buy and download on-line.  While it has a lot of competition out there, it just goes to show that Kurzweil is very interested in meeting new demands.  The best part, this software is free!

You can read an excellent article about this new software at wired.com.

From what I can tell, the software will be available either this month or next.  I am very excited to try out this new program.  Up to now, I haven’t purchased many electronic books, but that may change for me.  If this software also works with bookshare books, that will be even more incentive for me.  I am very interested in your thoughts.  Do you think it can withstand the competition?  How would having something like this improve your life, both leisure and professional?  I’ll keep a look out for when this software is available and let you know.