A Nokia cell phone can take pictures and read what it "sees" back to a user. It's pricey and although accuracy is said to be good (not excellent), this device represents an advance in technology for the visually impaired.
The phone, unlocked, costs between 500 and 600 dollars but it's the software that's more expensive, ranging in the $!500 range. This is the secret behind the technology, however.
"But it's the character-recognition and text-to-speech software from KNFB Reading Technology that makes it so powerful. KNFB is a joint venture of the National Federation of the Blind and Kurzweil Technologies."
Users have found it helpful for such things as reading print from newspapers and books, distinguishing labels on items (one person used it to see which was caffeinated/decaffeinated coffee in a hotel room) , and currency. It doesn't matter whether you take the picture of the print/text upside down or rightside up - the software works either way.
You'll find more information at the link above.
In other assistive device news:
Do you use the Kindle or Sony E Reader for hands free reading? Some of my friends do. Check this out.
Borders book store plans on competing against Amazon and its Kindle by launching a site offering books for the Sony EReader. Additionally, Borders is opening some digital centers at its book stores, offering customers various services, including free tech assistance for downloading books, music and working with photos.
This is interesting, since Kindle has been unavailable for months (you can order, but they're out of stock.) It's become the new Wii. One of my friends bought the Sony E Reader instead rather than wait any longer. Personally, I'd like to see a review of either device by someone with a disability.