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February 8, 2008 / Marco

5 Questions to Ask about KNFB Reader Mobile for Cell Phones

I’m sure many of you have read or heard about KNFB Reader Mobile for cell phones. This would be a ground-breaking development although its current price may dismay many potential users. Anyway, I think it would be quite interesting to find answers to the following 5 essential questions. If these questions are answered, our appreciation of this enhancement will increase.

Which OCR engine does KNFB Reader Mobile use?

Having come from the world of PC-based OCR engines, I’d be happy to know which OCR engine KNFB Reader Mobile uses. As far as I know, ABBYY develops a special edition of FineReader for mobile platforms including Symbian, and ABBYY calls it Mobile OCR SDK 2.0. If a proprietary OCR has been developed for this reader, what does it offer which cannot be found in ABBYY’s product?

Which TTS engine does KNFB Reader Mobile use?

The answer to this one is at the heart of all applications developed for the visually impaired. Does it use Eloquence, RealSpeak, DECTalk, or something else? Or, alternatively, does it rely on the TTS engine provided by the screen reader on the handset? I’m assuming that it uses a TTS engine so as not to depend on a particular screen reader.

Would a demonstration copy of KNFB Reader Mobile be available?

This should have been a wish not a question! I think there would be nothing wrong with a 20-minute or 40-minute demonstration of KNFB Reader Mobile, because purchasing a product with its, ahem, high price without giving it a try is unconventional. I just hope the developers decide to do something for us demo maniacs.

How many saving options does KNFB Reader Mobile provide?

If I’m correct on this, KNFB Reader Mobile can save the scanned text as TXT files. If that is the case, would it also provide the ability to save in, say, RTF? My problem with TXT is that it cannot retain font and formatting information, so if I scan a magazine article with KNFB Reader Mobile, I wouldn’t want to save it as a TXT file. This brings up the issue of convertors for KNFB Reader Mobile, so I’d like to know if it ships with convertors of that ilk.

Does it provide any spell checkers or accuracy evaluators?

I’m an avid user of the Kurzweil 1000 and apply its Ranked Spelling and Confidence Level mechanisms on a daily basis to the material I scan. As such, I’d like to know if any of these, or something similar to these, can be found in KNFB Reader Mobile. In other words, apart from notifying users of the way a particular picture has been taken, how is it going to help people know if the end result, that is the actual text, can be relied upon?

I guess I’ve asked more than 5 questions here. If any of you know the answer to one or more questions or are ready to speculate, the Comments section welcomes you!


Leave a Comment
  1. Stephen / Feb 8 2008 8:14 pm

    The KNFBReader uses the Eloquence TTS from my understanding. They could have left that out and let the screen reader do the reading to lower the price. Same goes for the screen enlargement part. I agree with you as far as a trial version. Hear is a few other questions!. 1. How will they handle upgrades to a new phone if you buy one? 2. How will they handel if your phone gets broken or stolden?

  2. Amir / Feb 8 2008 8:31 pm

    Steve, I should have consulted you before asking those 5 questions! Your questions are all valid. The product web site indicates that all upgrades to the application over the first year after an activation will be provided free of charge, but what would happen after that? Almost all Symbian products I know provide longer upgrade provision policies free of charge, and all of them are cheaper than KNFB Reader Mobile.

  3. Luis Peña / Feb 16 2008 1:50 pm

    Amir, I don’t think there will be a demo available because in order to use the KNFB Reader it is require to install some special filters on your cell phone camera. Apparently those filters are difficult to install and KNFB advisees that this should be done by a trained dealler. They say that if you don’t install such a filter the recognition is very poor.

  4. Amir / Feb 16 2008 8:04 pm

    Luis, do you also think installing a piece of software on an S60 cell phone is really difficult? I’ve not yet seen a Symbian application which cannot be installed by the visually impaired if a screen reader is in use. If this is true, in my opinion it is just a pretext to avoid releasing a demonstration copy.

  5. Amir / Feb 17 2008 5:50 am

    Oh really? You just mentioned a filter, and I thought you were talking about a software application. Anyhow, with this requirement, I’m not sure how many people who are willing to pay for it can gain access to the program because accessing a KNFB dealer isn’t easy everywhere.

  6. Luis Peña / Feb 17 2008 1:49 pm

    Amir, you can buy the reader including the phone, already to run. It is my understanding that as time goes by, there will be more dealers. IN the meantime, you can buy the reader in the US and in the UK.

  7. Amir / Feb 17 2008 7:13 pm

    Yes, currently it’s available in the USA and the UK. As you mentioned, it’s less complicated for those who want to get the application along with the phone, but we should wait and see how it moves forward for those who already have the N82 but live in other countries.

  8. Stephen / Feb 20 2008 12:51 am

    A few more good questions for people that already have a N82 and decide to pay out the out rages price for the KNFBReader that need to have the filters installed, they have to send their phone in to have it done!
    1. How long would you be without a phone?
    2. Do you have to pay shipping cost both ways?

    I wouldn’t be shocked if you had to pay the shipping both way on top of the $1,595 USD. Nope! For now; I’ll wait.

  9. joe / Apr 10 2009 6:16 pm

    a year later and still no demo?

    still fsr too expensive

    however, theres an alternative way to the knfb reader

    1- instal a seperate ocr app on your phone
    2- use the screen reader to read the captured image

    • HAGY / May 23 2011 5:52 pm

      Great idea, has anybody tryed it? can anybody help us to develop a less expensive OCR software for the blind. We, also, welcom more ideas.

  10. A-Reader mobile / Jun 28 2009 3:14 am

    Hi Folks,

    Just ocme across the site and want to answer a few of these questions!

    OCR engine – dunno, but will try and find out more.

    The TTS voices it uses are seperate to those of any screen reader. It istalls Eloquence (which it calls Classic) and Acapela voices (in the UK Lucy (sounds like Joanna Lumley) and Graeme (sounds like Richard Briers). The voices are sepeate from that of any screen reader, as it proves very useful to have a different voice from that of Talks, especially for the visually impaired. Also, the software allows you to have a different voice for when the software is speaking to you from reading to you.

    Saving files – the software saves files as text (.txt)files , JPEG images or both. No conversion software is included, but you can either whip out the SD card and pop it into an adapter, connect the phone via USB or bluetooth to your PC (or printer). The phone can work as a mass storage device via USB, so USB storage device and PicBridge support.

    No spell checkers or accuracy support (that I am aware of) currently supported, but will elt you know if I find different.

    Demo version – KNFB officially say no, but once the software (latest version) is installed on a handset and run it will prompt you to activate. If the activation process is cancelled or fails it then says trial mode (I’ve literally just found this out) – dunno waht the trail limitations are, but will investigate and let you know.

    Polariser stickers – KNFB say it must be used with polarising stickers over the lens and the Xenon flash, and that accuracy is far worse without these. Largely this is NOT true – I use my handset (N82) without these and it works just as well in virtually all conditions except for really strong sunlight, in which case cast a shaddow over the document and problem solved.

    You do not need to have a screen reader installed to work this, just assign a softkey to run it or install an autoboot package and then you can use it solely as a printed text reader.

    Software updates are free within 12 months. Transfer from one handset to another is free for life whether upgrading or have had it lost/stolen. The licence code is changed to suit your new IMEI by KNFB (takes 24 hours or less) and tyhey give you a new activation code to enter.

    It can be istalled y the user, but with sighted assistance if visually impaired. It is more easily done through the Nokia PC suite that comes with you ahnset or is a free download from Nokia’s website. It is a bit involved and things need to be done in a certain order. Best to phone tech support for them to talk you through what to do.

    The software was revampred in Feb 2009 and now offers optional translation, whereby it sends your text to Google translate via WiFi or Cellular/Mobile Internet service, receives it back in your language choice (from those installed on your phone) and proceeds to read it out in the correct TTS voice for that language.

    Current handsets which the software works on include the N82 and 6220 Classic. Although not officially supported, the N95 8Gb (not the standard N95 – this does not work) works really well, but is only 90% as effective as the N82 or 6220 classic, but still good enough – I know blind people who use the N95-8Gb with K-Reader and love it.

    Hope this helps!

  11. Bridget / Aug 27 2011 5:07 am


    I am researching mobile readers for my 12 son who is profoundly dyslexic. I got some good information here and I appreciate everyone’s input. I have only found two options. Intel Reader and the KNFB software with the Nokia phone. We are not too good with the technology stuff, so we wouldn’t really know how to rig a normal phone. And with the particular phone it takes, do you find the provider that takes that phone, or how does it become a normal phone also. (I told you I wasn’t good with technical stuff)

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