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Industry Pioneers: Ray Kurzweil, the Image Scanner

Ray Kurzweil is an American inventor and is currently the Director of Engineering at Google. At the age of five he began building model machines, and at 12 he built his first single computing device. Later on in the early 70’s, Kurzweil met a blind man on an airplane that wanted to read all sorts of text and was unable to do so with current technology. He was inspired to invent the Kurzweil reading machine, which tracked lines, read the characters and performed speech synthesis in synchrony with the scanner camera’s movements. So the machine was both a reading machine for the blind, and a text reader, better known as the image scanner.


-Prototype released in 1975

-First reading machine/ scanner cost 30,000-50,000

– Before Kurzweil’s inventions, scanners could only read a few select fonts

-The scanner was developed at Bell Labs

-Scanned images can now be emailed, which provides a simpler, paper free alternative to faxing

 Ray Kurzweil wasn’t the first one to invent the scanner, but his ground- breaking achievements and charitable contributions that were inspired by a blind man have altered the way we approach the potential uses of the scanner. Kurzweil said it best when he stated, “I realize that most inventions fail not because a research development department can’t get them to work, but because the timing is wrong-not all the enabling factors are at play where they are needed. Inventing is a lot like surfing; you have to anticipate and catch the wave at just the right moment.”

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