Once, when reading aloud, it misread general manager, pronouncing it general maniac. It used to pronounce breast as breest. And once, at a special demonstration during the Carter administration, it misread the president's name.
But it can be pretty smart, too. It pronounces Mr. as mister, and can distinguish between St. (Saint) and st. (street). It knows to pronounce long words in all capital letters, like UNICEF, while spelling out short ones. And most of its earlier mispronunciations have been corrected.
"It" is the Voice Output Reading System, a reading machine for the blind that talks.
The VORS is a product of Telesensory Systems Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif. Although not in production yet, it will be soon.
During its final development, the VORS is undergoing a year-long "human factor" study. There are eight prototypes, each in different cities around the country, being evaluated by the public.
The one in Washington is at the American Council of the Blind, 1211 Conn. Ave. NW, Suite 506, 833-1251. According to Tracy Reynolds, site coordinator for the ACB project, blind and visually-impaired members of the public are invited to try out the machine and help evaluate it.
The study continues until the end of this year.