WMU News

Enabling technology specialist speaks about voice synthesis

October 13, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- A leading authority on emerging technologies serving the blind will share his expertise during a visit to Western Michigan University next week.

Michael May, vice president of Arkenstone Inc. of San Jose, Calif., will talk about "Communication Technology for People who are Visually Impaired" in a free public lecture at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, in Room 3101 of Sangren Hall. His visit to the campus is part of WMU's Visiting Scholars and Artists Program and is sponsored by the Departments of Blind Rehabilitation and Special Education.

May has been at the forefront of providing greater access for people who are blind and has helped develop voice synthesis technology. His talk will focus on the use of voice synthesis and its applications.

May also has helped advance technology related to optical character recognition and most recently access to travel. He has developed an innovative two-stage system to assist with spatial orientation.

The spatial orientation technology includes a CD ROM computer-based mapping system called Atlas Speaks that lets blind people explore streets by moving a virtual pawn along various routes while a voice synthesizer identifies street names. Stage two combines Atlas Speaks with the Global Positioning Satellite system to provide technology that can talk to a traveler and identify his or her exact position and various landmarks.

In addition to his public presentations, May also will meet and work with blind rehabilitation and special education students during his visit. For more information about May's visit, persons may contact Dr. William R. Wiener, chairperson of WMU's Department of Blind Rehabilitation and coordinator of the event. He can be reached at (616) 387-3456.

The Visiting Scholars and Artists Program was established in 1960 and has supported some 500 visits by scholars and artists representing more than 65 academic disciplines. The chairperson of the committee that oversees the program is Dr. James M. Hillenbrand, professor of speech pathology and audiology.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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