Imagine getting home from work, collecting the post from the mat and sitting at the kitchen table to go through it, while you wait for the kettle to boil. For most people that’s domestic normality. For many blind people, it’s a process that involves a computer, scanner and OCR package. Hardly the setup for a quick look at anything.
KNFB Reader is a portable OCR package that works with your mobile phone. It’s very convenient, easy to use, and highly accurate.
How does it work?
KNFB Reader uses the built in camera of your mobile phone. You capture an image of the text and it translates it into plain text. You can use it to read envelopes, letters, articles, medicine packaging, menus and quite a bit more besides.
It has a field of view report, which takes a practice image. KNFB Reader then provides guidance on aligning the text correctly.
It will tell you whether each side of the document is visible, and how much of the available image is filled with text. All four sides visible and 70% text fill is about optimum.
When you’re happy with the alignment, you capture the actual image. KNFB Reader then converts the image text into plain text.
It corrects problems such as the text being upside down, and alerts you if the text is cut off at any point.
Once the image has been fully processed, KNFB Reader begins reading the text automatically. You can listen to the text as it is read out, or you can navigate through it in chunks.
KNFB Reader has several simple text navigation keys that make this extremely easy.
What else can it do?
You can save captured images and the corresponding text files with KNFB Reader. When you hook your mobile phone up to your computer, you can transfer the files across for more permenant storage.
For American citizens, KNFB Reader can be used to identify US paper currency. It also has a translation feature. Foreign language text captured in an image can be translated into English from around 16 different languages.
How easy is it to use?
With some practice, KNFB Reader is very easy to use. Each function takes just a single key press, so there’s no need to remember complex actions.
Capturing images is the tricky bit at first. KNFB Reader comes with clear instructions and a training document to practice with.
When experimenting with the training document, KNFB
Reader provides additional information to help you get the hang of it. This includes your distance from the surface of the document, and guidance on whether to move left, right, backward or forwards for better alignment.
What are the drawbacks?
At the moment KNFB Reader is only available for three mobile phones. The Nokia N82, N86 and 6220 Classic. The software requires the Symbian 60 series (3rd edition) operating system, so with luck more phones will be supported in the future.
It is also expensive. At £695 for the software, excluding your phone or mobile screen reader, the cost is breathtaking. Add a mobile phone (N86 with no sim card) and a mobile screen reader (Talks IMEI license) and you’re looking at close to £1,200 for the package.
I’ve been using KNFB Reader for several days now, and I’ve found it tremendously liberating. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve found more and more practical applications for using it.
It took me a long time to decide whether to buy the software. The cost is not to be taken lightly, and with no demonstration version available, I found it took quite a leap of faith. Positive feedback from many other users helped me choose.
It did take me several days of practice before I got the hang of capturing images successfully. Now that I have, I rarely use the field of view report and usually go for the live image capture straight away. It remains a useful feature though, particularly if my first attempt is wildly out of alignment.
I’ve also experienced some problems with light sensitivity. Other users assure me they can capture images in dimly lit conditions, but I don’t seem to have that luxury. I’m hopeful I’ll find a solution to this in due course. In the meantime, I can confirm that the camera shutter is indeed open…