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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jim Fruchterman: Genius

This morning, I found an item in my Inbox from Blind News telling me that Jim Fruchterman received a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.  I’ve pasted in the item from Bill Trippe’s blog where it had originally run below.  

I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award than Jim.  His contributions to technology that we blinks use (including inventing the first scan and read machine, years before Ray Kurzweil thought of doing it) and fft based OCR, the basis for all modern character recognition software are incredible enough but, then, he moved on to creating his latest non-profit and spread out from projects for blind and otherwise print disabled people into a panoply of really cool projects.

Knowing Jim personally a little, I can say, without reservation, that the word “genius” may be an understatement when describing him.  When Jim enters a room, he brings his enthusiasm and seemingly infinite energy to the space.  It always seems as though everyone else gets smarter when he’s around.

Jim is on the PPO advisory Board and helped us with our incorporation.  He is also the man behind Bookshare and lots of other really cool things.

So, please join me in congratulating Jim on winning the award and, more importantly, for his lifetime of invention and contribution to society at large.

Original article:

BillTrippe.com (Blog)
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bookshare.org Founder Awarded Genius Grant

By Bill Trippe

Jim Fruchterman, CEO of The Benetech Initiative, has been awarded a 2006 MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Each of this year's 25 MacArthur Fellows learned this week that they will receive $500,000 in "no strings attached" funding over the next five years.

Jim Fruchterman, 47, is an electrical engineer turned social entrepreneur who adapts cutting-edge technology into affordable tools for the visually impaired and other underserved communities. In 1989, Fruchterman founded the nonprofit company Arkenstone to develop and manufacture a reading machine for the blind using optical character recognition technology. He delivered the reading tool in a dozen languages to 35,000 people in 60 countries.

In 2000, Fruchterman founded another nonprofit company, The Benetech Initiative, to create innovative technology solutions that address social needs. Benetech's first project, Bookshare.org created the world's largest accessible library of scanned books and periodicals providing people with visual or print disabilities access to a dramatically increased volume of print materials.

Posted by Bill Trippe at September 19, 2006 07:45 PM


http://www.billtrippe.com/archives/2006/09/bookshareorg_fo.html

1 Comments:

Anonymous Stephen Baum said...

(quote) I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award than Jim. (end quote)

I completely agree, and expect that he will use the money provided with the fellowship quite effectively. Jim has been a great source of energy and ideas for years, both in the adaptive technology market and beyond. Bookshare.org, in particular, is the best use yet of the Chafee amendment, and a marvelous resource.

(quote)
His contributions to technology that we blinks use (including inventing the first scan and read machine, years before Ray Kurzweil thought of doing it) and fft based OCR, the basis for all modern character recognition software are incredible enough but...
(end quote)

Say what? Honors for the first scan and read machine do go to Kurzweil Computer Products, which introduced the first version of the Kurzweil Reading Machine in 1976. There were no competitors on the commercial side of the business until 1986, when Palantir introduced its OCR product. Jim was associated with Palantir. He left in 1989 to found Arkenstone.

Interestingly, Nuance, a company whose roots are Kurzweil Computer Products (it was ScanSoft, before that it was Xerox Imaging Systems, before that it was KCP) has the commericial OCR business pretty much cornered. The OCR technologies that were pioneered by KCP, Palantir (which later became Calera), Caere, and Recognita, are all owned by Nuance.

3:28 PM  

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