KURZWEIL COMPUTER PRODUCTS, INC.
Cambridge MA 02139
Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc., was established in 1974 to
develop the Kurzweil Reading Machine, a reading machine for
people with impaired vision. The technology for the machine dates
back to 1966 and Raymond Kurzweil's interest in pattern recognition
and work on artificial intelligence and speech perception while a
student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A key later
development, by 1970, were computer algorithms for recognizing
printed and typed letters in many font types and from a variety of
printing processes. (THE KURZWEIL REPORT, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 1978)
In 1980, Kurzweil Computer Products was acquired by the Xerox Corp.
for $3.6 million. (BUSINESS WEEK, Sept. 22, p.46N, 1980)
Early models of the reading machine used commercial speech
synthesizers operated from computer software developed by Steven
Pelletier. Later models used commercial text-to-speech systems.
PROJECT: READING MACHINE FOR THE BLIND (1966 - )
1966 Research on character recognition begun by Raymond Kurzweil
at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
1970 Print-to-speech reading machine project begun
1973 Company established. Staff included Richard Brown, Allen
Becker, David Boucher, Randall Stern, Gregory Mott, Aaron
Kleiner, and Barry Unger from MIT; Steven Pelletier from
Harvard; Harry George from Bowdoin.
1974 KRM-I prototype using Votrax VS-6 speech synthesizer in
external package. Early grapheme to phoneme rules used Naval
Research Laboratory model (see SSSHP USA Naval Research Lab-
oratory file) with disk-based exception dictionary. Over
1000 linguistic rules, 2000-word exception dictionary,
syntactical rules for stress. S. Pelletier was responsible
for speech development
1975 KRM-I prototype user interface developed by S. Pelletier
making novel use of speech output, including "Nominator" key
for naming other keys on the keypad. In addition to speech
output, a KRM had speech user controls for repeating
characters, words, and lines, and for moving a pointer in a
text buffer. KRM-I prototype demonstrated to government and
1976 First public demonstration. KRM-I prototypes delivered to end
users for $50,000. Votrax VS-6 synthesizer was packaged
within scanner box. S. Pelletier extended and rewrote
grapheme-to-phoneme rules to radically reduce the size of the
exception dictionary (to around 1500 words) so that entire
text-to-speech algorithm could run in 32KB of memory on a
Data General Nova 1200 computer, without a disk.
Kurzweil, R., "The Kurzweil Reading Machine: a technical
overview," in SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND THE HANDICAPPED, ed by
M.R. Redden and W. Schwandt, Amer. Assoc. Advance. of Science
Report 76-R-11, 3-11 (1976). Used Votrax synthesizer. Later
models used Speech Plus Inc. Prose-2000. (K)
SSSHP 32.27 Tape: Demo to accompany "Review of Text-to-speech
conversion for English," D.H. Klatt, JASA 82.3, Sep 1987.
(4 sen: "Hello, I am ... Please enter a command.")
Cassette, Klatt MIT A/D and D/A of videotape of CBS
broadcast, borrowed 11/8/86 from Kurzweil Comp. Prod.
1977 KRM-II developed using same speech synthesizer as KRM-I. S.
Pelletier began development of proprietary Kurzweil phoneme-
to-speech synthesizer. Sonograph spectrum analyzer was used
to extract formant frequency information from recorded speak-
ers at Kurzweil. Tim Platt began work on talking calculator
software for next generation KRM.
1978 THE KURZWEIL REPORT, Vol. 1, No. 2, Summer 1978.
Announcement of KRM-II (The Desk Top KRM - $19,400) using
Votrax VS-6 (?). New "Hand-scanning" feature. Improved
linguistic modules for syllabification, morphological
analysis, and sentence parsing. Talking calculator feature.
48 KRMs in the field.
Analog formant hardware synthesizer developed at Kurzweil by
Steven Goldstein, based on preliminary design licensed from
Computalker Consultants (see SSSHP USA Computalker Consult-
ants). This was a single, low-cost board (UMC less than $300),
programmable synthesizer that received 8 (?) speech parameter
values (F1, F2, F3, frication, hiss, time constants for
formants) every 10 milliseconds from software running in the
KRM main computer. This new software, written by S. Pelletier,
provided formant synthesis-by-rule, using parameters based on
1979 THE KURZWEIL REPORT, Number 3, Spring 1979. Talking Terminal
announced for fall 1979 ($3650 or $18/week rental). KRM-II
lease/purchase plan ($98/week for 5 years + $1940 to buy).
Plastic diskette of Kurzweil speech synthesis technique by
Steve Pelletier to be used in Talking Terminal and next model
of KRM (KRM-III).
Desk Top KRM demonstrated at Smithsonian Museum of History
and Technology, Hall of Medicine, Rehabilitation Discovery
KRM-III (Desktop KRM) delivered to customers using Kurzweil
synthesizer. Speech software included limited sentence level
prosodics based on keyword parts of speech and punctuation,
word morphological analysis, text-to-phoneme conversion,
phoneme-to-synthesizer parameter rules, and a single-board
SSSHP 145 Plastic Cassette: "A Report on the Kurzweil Reading
Machine for the Blind," Kurzweil Computer Products.
("A,B,C's, numbers, dollars, O say can you see...,
A horse is a horse..., Four score and seven...")
33 1/3 rpm plastic diskette accompanying The Kurzweil
Report, No. 3, Spring 1979. See SSSHP USA Kurzweil file.
1980 Product Brochure 10/1/80: KRM-III ($29,800, $2100/yr
maintenance). 200 KRMs in use. Company purchased by the
1984 KRM-IV (KRM Series 400) was introduced, utilizing Prose 2000
Text-to-Speech licensed from Telesensory Systems, Inc. (now
Speech Plus, Inc.) (see SSSHP USA Telesensory Systems, Inc.
file). The Prose 2000 board was a completely digital
synthesizer, using a DSP chip for speech waveform generation.
KRM-IV included software for reading machine for the blind,
talking calculator, and (through secret key sequence) a
talking version of the Adventure computer game.
SSSHP 22 Tape: KRM Series 400 Demonstration, 1984.
(simulated interview, syn: Robert Frost poem, explan.
of how it works)
Cassette, one side, good quality
1985 KRM-IV European language versions introduced. Used Infovox
SA-101 technology licensed from Infovox S.A. of Sweden (see
SSSHP SWEDEN Royal Institute of Technology file). KRM-IV has
character recognition and speech output for English, French,
German, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish.
1988 Kurzweil Personal Reader introduced in April and delivered to
users in August. Price ranged from $7,995 to $11,995. First
portable reading machine for the blind with hand-held scanner
and page scanner options. Used DECtalk English speech
technology licensed from Digital Equipment Corporation (see
SSSHP USA Digital Equipment Corp.). Multiple "voices" are used
for error messages and normal reading.
SSSHP 20 Product Brochures: Personal Reader, 1988
SSSHP 21 Tape: Xerox/Kurzweil Personal Reader Demonstration
(syn: extensive explanation by Personal Reader about
how it works)
Cassette, both sides, good quality
A later version, the Reading Edge, was smaller and priced at
Analog Devices, , CA
1970 BS in computer science and literature, Mass. Inst. of Tech.,
1974 Founded Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc.
1982 Founded Kurzweil Applied Intelligence, Inc. and Kurzweil
Music Systems, Inc.
Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Hofstra Univ.
1987 Honorary Doctorate of Music, Berklee College of Music
1988 Honorary Doctorate of Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst.
Honorary Doctorate of Science, Northeastern University
Ph.D. Harvard Univ., dept? Thesis?
Interleaf Corp., Cambridge, MA
1978 BS in Computer Science, Mass. Inst. of Tech., Cambridge, MA
PROJECT DESCRIPTIONS AND REVIEW BY:
Mr. Randy Stern, Vice President
Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc.
185 Albany Street
Cambridge MA 02139