Hollywood, CA, May 20, 2010 -- The 40th Anniversary presentation of â€œThe Vision Awardsâ„¢", which will take place on Sept. 23, 2010, in Beverly Hills, will present a first time â€œPioneer in Technologyâ€? Vision Award to world renowned inventor Ray Kurzweil, inventor of the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments. The announcement was made today by Helen Harris, founder of Retinitis Pigmentosa International, the presenting organization behind those awards.
Mrs. Harris, herself blind, launched both RP International and The Vision Awards in 1970 as high profile vehicles by which to raise awareness of the millions of people who fight against the gradual loss of their vision from both RP and Macular Degeneration. The Vision Awards also raise funds for medical research. (Please see: www.rpinternational.org and www.visionawards.org
Previously announced Vision Awards
will go this year to longtime entertainment industry figures Stanley Jaffe and George Schlatter, each of whom will each receive a 2010 â€œLifetime Achievement Vision Awardâ€? for their extraordinary achievements in film and television. (Further Vision Award winners will be announced shortly).
Mrs. Harris said, â€œWe are really thrilled to be honoring this year super genius Ray Kurzweil, one of the most acclaimed inventors of all time. As the creator of the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, he has helped millions of visually impaired individuals, including myself, enjoy the gift of books. Our first-ever â€˜Pioneer in Technologyâ€™ Vision Award couldnâ€™t possibly be bestowed upon a more deserving individual.â€?
Previous recipients of Vision Awards include Bob Hope, Aaron Spelling, Bill Cosby, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Robert Wise, Lawrence Kasdan, Robert Zemeckis, Joel Schumacher, Oliver Stone, Richard Donner, Lauren Shuler-Donner, Lawrence Bender, William Friedkin, Tim Burton, John Frankenheimer, Roone Arledge, Sherry Lansing, Robert Towne, Tom Cruise, Bill Mechanic, Phil Collins, Robert Halmi, Sr., Lesley Stahl, Rick Nicita, Alan Ladd, Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Helen Hunt, Arnon Milchan, Martin Brest, Chuck Jones, Jon Voight, Matt Damon, Bo Goldman, Carole Black, Frances W. Preston, Suzanne de Passe, Don Ohlmeyer, Rae Sanchini, and Jon Landau, among many others.
ABOUT RAY KURZWEIL:
Ray Kurzweil has been described as â€œThe restless geniusâ€? by the Wall Street Journal, and â€œThe ultimate thinking machineâ€? by Forbes Magazine. Inc. Magazine ranked him #8 among entrepreneurs in the United States, calling him â€œThe rightful heir to Thomas Edison,â€? and PBS included Ray as one of 16 â€œrevolutionaries who made America,â€? along with other inventors of the past two centuries.
As one of the leading inventors of our time, Ray was the principal developer of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition technology. Rayâ€™s web site Kurzweil AI.net has over one million readers.
Among Rayâ€™s many honors, he is the recipient of the $500,000 MIT-Lemelson Prize, the world's largest for innovation. In 1999, he received the National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest honor in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony. And in 2002, he was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame , established by the US Patent Office.
Ray has received nineteen honorary Doctorates and honors from three U.S. presidents. He is the author of six books, four of which have been national best sellers. The Age of Spiritual Machines has been translated into 9 languages and was the #1 best selling book on Amazon in science. Rayâ€™s latest book, The Singularity is Near, was a New York Times best seller, and has been the #1 book on Amazon in both science and philosophy.
ABOUT HELEN HARRIS:
Helen Harris has been a tireless advocate on behalf of people with visual impairments for the past 40 years. Herself a victim of Retinitis Pigmentosa, and legally blind for more than three decades (when she was a young mother, two of her three sons, ages 2 and 5, were also afflicted by the disease), Mrs. Harris personally knows all too well the helpless and hopeless feeling of having a disease that is little known. She is the founder of Retinitis Pigmentosa International and The Vision Awards, which she has dedicated to the â€œpreservation and restoration of sight.â€?
Mrs. Harris is also an author of the book, â€œHow to Survive Losing Vision,â€? as well as a poet, a painter, and a member of the Producers Guild of America. She has testified before Congress about major issues facing the blind, and has also enlisted the aid of hundreds of major Hollywood directors, producers, and stars -- as well as that of former President George H. W. Bush -- in the creation of â€œTheatreVisionâ„¢â€? presentations.
Currently marking its 20th year, TheatreVision, conceived and developed by Harris, is a unique program for the blind that makes feature film presentations accessible to the visually challenged through the addition of a unique narration and special soundtrack describing the action on screen. The Los Angeles Times recently ran an article profiling this program.
To date, over 100 Hollywood feature films have been produced in TheatreVision, with many having been narrated by noted celebrities. These have included â€œForrest Gump,â€? â€œTitanicâ€? (narrated by James Cameron and Angie Dickinson), â€œStar Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menanceâ€? (narrated by Samuel L. Jackson), â€œMission Impossible,â€? â€œApollo 13â€? (narrated by William Shatner), and â€œItâ€™s A Wonderful Lightâ€? (narrated by President George H. W.
Bush). More recent entries have included â€œTwlight,â€? â€œValkkyrie,â€? â€œThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button,â€? â€œInglourious Basterds,â€? â€œSeven Pounds,â€? and â€œTerminator 2: Judgment Day.â€?
From modest beginnings, RPI has grown into a global organization, committed to focusing world attention on eye problems, and to promote research, public awareness, education, and human services for victims of degenerative eye diseases. With the support of dedicated volunteers, including many entertainment, political, and sports figures, RPI has raised over $ 5-million to date for eye research and education during the past 40 years of telethons and special events, including its annual â€œVision Awardsâ€? fundraiser. In addition, RPI has also enlisted other donors into contributing more than $ 300-million directly to medical research for eye health.
Said Mrs. Harris, â€œRPI has made a real difference. Within just the past several years alone, great strides have been made in retinal transplantation. What was impossible to even imagine five years ago will almost certainly become a reality within the next decade. New technologies and medical techniques have brought us to the threshold of hope, to the day when Retinitis Pigmentosa or Macular Degeneration will no longer carry with it a lifetime of darkness.â€?