Notetaker: talking computer for the blind

first_img24 December 2010 Two researchers at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have developed a portable talking computer that “speaks” four South African languages – with more still to come – for use by blind people. The “Notetaker for the Blind” was developed by Willem van der Walt, working with Gerhard van den Berg, as part of the National Accessibility Programme, a five-year initiative led by the CSIR’s Meraka Institute to develop information and communications technology resources for people with disabilities. According to the CSIR, the Notetaker was designed “to empower blind users in South Africa, from young children at school to university students and older people, through a single device tailored to general use such as text documents and unit conversions. “Blind users are therefore able to get a three-in-one to take the place of a special scientific calculator, hardware and a DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) player.”Uniquely South African innovation Van der Walt is proud of the way in which the Notetaker has taken shape as a uniquely South African innovation. The computer’s calculator has been designed for future expansion to serve as a financial calculator suited to South African requirements. It has also been built as cheaply as possible, using readily available off-the-shelf components, so that it can be supported locally. The Notetaker has a keyboard for input and a voice synthesiser for output. By using open source software, it has been easier to localise the notetaker, giving users the option to set it to any one of four South African languages: English, Afrikaans, Sesotho sa Leboa (or Sepedi) and isiZulu. Van der Walt, who is a member of the CSIR’s human language technologies research group, is working on integrating text-to-speech resources for other South African languages into the Notetaker.eSpeak for Afrikaans and Sepedi It was Van der Walt who, with the help of colleagues and local and international collaborators, developed eSpeak for Afrikaans and Sepedi. eSpeak, a compact open source software speech synthesiser for English and other languages, uses a different synthesis method from other open-source text-to-speech engines and produces clear articulation. More recently, Van der Walt ported eSpeak on Symbian, the operating system used by certain mobile phones, which has made the localisation of voices possible in the mobile domain. Anyone interested in discussing the Notetaker’s technical details with a view to taking the product to market can Van der Walt on wvdwalt@csir.co.za or Hina Patel of the CSIR Meraka Institute on hpatel@csir.co.za. SAinfo reporter Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

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It’s Too Little Too Late

first_img Get the Free eBook! Want to master cold calling? Download my free eBook! Many would have you believe that cold calling is dead, but the successful have no fear of the phone; they use it to outproduce their competitors. Download Now By the time you need to have nurtured your dream client and earned the right to compete for their business, it’s too late to start nurturing. By the time you recognize the need to create value before claiming it, nurturing can’t help you.By the time your pipeline is too poor to produce the results you need, it’s too late to do anything about it. By the time you recognize that you need to prospect, prospecting can’t help you.By the time you needed to have gained a serious understanding of your clients business to build a solution, it’s too late to glean the insights that would have allowed you to build the right solution. By the time you present, it’s too late to look for insights.By the time you need to have built consensus around you and your solution, it’s too late to garner the votes you need. By the time you need the votes, asking for the votes can’t help you.By the time you are negotiating over price, it’s too late to start creating value. By the time you decided to push back on value, it’s too late to start establishing it. You needed to agree on the value created before that point.The natural laws on the universe are always on display and at work in sales. You can’t reap what you haven’t sown. There’s no playing catch up. It’s too little too late. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you need to do today.Today is yesterday’s tomorrow. If you did the work you should have done yesterday, that worked out fine for you. But if you didn’t, there’s a high price to pay.last_img read more

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Agent Viru

first_imgAnupam MukerjiTuesday, March 1An optional practice day for the team. But the coach showed select players some highlights from the match against England. Bhajji was shown his dropped catch, followed by how he growled at others for their misfields. Piyush Chawla (PC) was shown how he got tonked for two sixes and then reacted to a wicket like he had taken a hat-trick. And Munaf was shown his performance with the bat again and again till it could pierce through his head. “All you had to do was run, you idiot,” Kirsten Kaku was overheard screaming. “But, it’s good to have him in the side,” Agent Viru told me later. “Now I am not the only bull head in the team.” Kaku has sought Sunil Gavaskar’s help to teach Munaf how to put the bat behind the crease. An obvious choice as teacher, given his fascination with “sliding the bat in”, as we have painfully heard a million times in his long career as commentator. But Munaf is quietly confident he will make Gavaskar forget it himself. Amazingly, most of India is wishing the same.Wednesday, March 2PCB Chief Ijaz Butt held a press conference after Pakistan’s win against Sri Lanka. Other than the victory, he spoke of how it was now clear that the Sydney Test Match, famous for Kamran Akmal’s 123 missed chances, wasn’t fixed at all. “It’s clear now that Kamran really can’t keep wickets. We should stop accusing him of dropping catches intentionally,” Butt said. Kamran, in turn, has turned to PC for help with a text that reads, “Please teach me how not to look stupid while doing stupid things on the field.” Viru tells me that PC has promised to teach Kamran as soon as he finishes teaching S. Sreesanth.advertisementThursday, March 3 Suresh Raina is getting desperate to break into the playing eleven. While the rest of the team trained at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Raina headed to a leading cosmetic surgeon to explore ways of getting dimples on his cheeks. “Look like PC and you can get in,” Viru had suggested to Raina a few days earlier. All for a good cause, after all, Raina can definitely bat better and couldn’t bowl any worse. Raina even called up Praveen Kumar (PK) to confirm the pecking order. Raina was under the impression that his name came after PK’s in the Uttar Pradesh quota. “Even I know this much English yaar,” PK replied. “P comes before S.” And C is closer to D,” Viru added with a wry smile as he narrated the story to me.Friday, March 4I met Agent Viru at his house in Delhi where he had returned to get his rib injury scanned. He updated me on a few mysterious incidents. Apparently, Ashish Nehra’s after shave bottle was found filled with a warm fluid of similar colour but very dissimilar odour. Unfortunately for Nehra, he discovered it much after he had liberally applied it all over his face. Bhajji’s shoes were found filled with sand. And R. Ashwin, another bowler vying for a spot, couldn’t sleep the whole night as he felt his room was haunted. “A pattern seems to emerge if you combine these two incidents with how Sreesanth bowled a beamer at Yuvi and then smashed the bowling coach’s knees,” Agent Viru explained the conspiracy theory. When I asked about his rib injury, he explained, “Ribs were always fine, yaar. I was tired of the bisibele bhath in Bangalore. I had to have my mom’s aloo parathas. Now, I am all set for the next match.”The writer was formerly known as the Fake IPL Player. He will observe the 2011 World Cup through Agent Viru’s eyes.last_img read more

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Shashi Tharoor: A ready-reckoner

first_imgWho is Shashi Tharoor?Born on March 9, 1956, Shashi Tharoor is a Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram. He has been appointed Minister of State, Ministry of Human Resource Development in the latest Cabinet reshuffle on October 28, 2012. Political CareerUntil 2007, he was a career official at the United Nations and rose to the position of Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information. He resigned after he lost the 2007 election for UN Secretary General to Ban Ki-Moon. Upon his return to India, he joined politics in 2009 and served as Minister of State for External Affairs. He resigned from the post less than a year later following a controversy generated by one of his tweets. Literary CareerA prolific author, he has written numerous books most of which were best-sellers. His book, The Great Indian Novel, is currently in its 28th edition in India and his latest book The Elephant, The Tiger and the Cellphone has already undergone seven hardback reprints. Tharoor is not just an author, he was a successful actor also and played Antony to Mira Nair’s Cleopatra in a 1974 production of Antony and Cleopatra. Personal lifeFollowing his divorce from his first wife, Christa, a Canadian working at the UN, he married Sunanda Pushkar at his ancestral home in Elavanchery village in Kerala’s Palakkad district in 2010. ControversiesIn September 2009, he was accused of staying in luxurious 5-star hotels at the government’s expense. He, however, clarified that the money was being spent from his own pocket for the accommodation. Another controversy erupted when, while responding to a question as to whether he would travel in “Cattle Class”, he answered in the affirmative, thus equating the travelling public to cattle. His tweet was also a tongue-in-cheek dig at his party, the Congress, over its austerity drive. He again courted trouble when he said that people should work on Gandhi Jayanti instead of staying at home taking a holiday. In January 2010, he was reprimanded by his party for criticising Gandhi and Nehru for their vision on Indian foreign policy by the Indian media. He was also involved in a controversy regarding the Kochi IPL team’s franchise owners, Rendezvous Sports World (RSW) group. In his tweets, former IPL chief Lalit Modi had mentioned that he was asked by an influential Union Minister not to get into details of Sunanda Pushkar, who was given sweat equity of 4.5 per cent in Kochi IPL team. Tharoor, however, denied having made any gains from the sale or having pressured Modi in any way.advertisementlast_img read more

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SFL Offloads VLCC Veteran

first_imgzoomIllustration; Image Courtesy: PxHere under CC0 Creative Commons license Bermuda-based shipowner Ship Finance International Limited has agreed to sell the 2001-built VLCC Front Ariake to an unnamed third party.Delivery to the new owner is expected later this month, and the net sales price will be approximately USD 20.7 million, including USD 3.4 million in the form of an interest-bearing loan note from Frontline Ltd.The book value of the vessel is set at around USD 27.6 million, thus an impairment is expected to be recorded in the company’s third quarter results.Divesting of older vessels is part of SFL’s fleet renewal and diversification strategy.In July, SFL sold three 2002-built VLCCs to ADS Crude Carriers Ltd, a newly established company in which Ship Finance had acquired a 17 pct interest.Offloading of older tonnage is aimed at making room for new fleet additions. Namely, over the past six months, Ship Finance took delivery of over 19 vessels with long-term charters, increasing its fixed charter backlog by nearly USD 600 million.The latest sale leaves the company’s VLCC fleet to four ships, chartered out to a subsidiary of Frontline Ltd.last_img read more

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