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Stevie Wonder looking for gadgets for the blind

by Staff Writers
Las Vegas (AFP) Jan 8, 2009
Stevie Wonder wants a car he can drive around.

For the time being, the famous blind music star will settle for engineers designing gadgets that let visually-impaired people stay in tune with the digital era.

The Grammy-award winning artist is at the premier Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, praising innovative "vision-free" devices and urging manufacturers to create many more of them.

"Me, I'd like a car I can use to get around," Wonder said when asked by AFP what technology breakthrough is at the top of his wish list. "That may be a long way off."

Wonder added that he is a fan of new Apple Nano iPods that speak the names of titles in music libraries and feature trademark circular control panel that is simple to navigate by touch.

He seeks a device that will listen to snippets of music he happens to hear and then automatically tell him the titles and artists.

On Friday, Wonder will honor select CES gizmos with Vision Awards for helping the visually-impaired take advantage of digital-age wonders.

"This technology can not only be great for blind people but for people in general," Wonder said. "Anything that is more accessible for us is great for everyone."

Technological advances are needed to enable blind people to hold jobs and navigate about independently, said Sendero Group chief executive Mike May.

Some 70 percent of blind people in the US don't have jobs, according to May.

Sendero created Mobile Geo satellite positioning and talking map software that tells users where they are and how to get where they want to go. Mobile Geo won a Vision Award from Wonder as well as an innovation award from CES.

"There are a lot of cool gadgets out there and we want to make sure our blind friends, family and people we don't even know are able to use those devices," said May, who is blind.

"I can ski downhill at 25 mph, but I can't use a flat-panel control microwave."

Blind users of devices need voice prompts when it comes to controls and items in libraries or other lists displayed on screens, May said.

"It is important people can see the thermostat," he noted. "Why can't it talk? Whether it is radio or television, we just need to know what the content on that beautiful TV is."

Vision Award winners will be posted online at

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