kReader Mobile

Published Jan-12-10

Innovative text-to-speech mobile phone application.

knfb Reading Technology, Inc., United States

The Story:

kReader Mobile Mobile phone supplier Nokia is actively engaged in open innovation through its research center and via open innovation contests.

Global Open Innovation Competition

“Calling All Innovators” is a global competition designed to generate new applications for the company’s phones. The 2008 contest offered $250,000 in prizes, which for a multinational is a relatively low-cost way of innovating.

By reaching out across the planet to development teams and creative individuals, the open innovation challenge also provided Nokia with a steer as to the direction of current and future thinking.

“The high caliber of the winners in the first iteration of Calling All Innovators underscores the remarkable, ongoing creativity and innovation that currently defines the mobile developer community around the globe," said Rob Taylor, Director of Forum Nokia.

The competition challenged potential entrants to address specific issues such as: minimizing the environmental impact of consumers by allowing them to make sustainable choices that reduce their energy consumption, and finding new mobile solutions that can help to improve the lives of millions of people in the developing world. The idea was for developers to think big and consider how future applications could be used in real-life scenarios to better society. An example would be an application that could test the potability of water in deprived parts of the world.

Inundated with Submissions

Almost 1,000 submissions were made from 57 countries and they were whittled down to 11 finalists. The first place winner in the Technology Showcase category was knfb Reading Technology, Inc. with their kReader Mobile for which they picked up a $10,000 cash reward. It is a multi-language text-to-speech application and uses a camera phone to digitize any printed material. A user simply takes a picture of a letter, receipt, book, restaurant menu or any other type of document and the software reads out the captured text. The kReader can read print in 16 languages and can translate from any of these to any of the others.

Empowering the Vision Impaired

Although this kind of technology has been available on digital assistants in the past, knfb Reading Technology say that this is the first time it’s been integrated in a cell phone. The innovative application has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people and is supported by the Nokia N82 phone model.

More Open innovation Competitions

In addition to awarding cash prizes to the winners, Nokia helps them to distribute their applications. For the mobile phone giant the open innovation competition has proved to be an effective and highly efficient way of enhancing the value of their phones to customers. So much so, that it has repeated the competition in subsequent years.

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