Chairman and Founder
The Benetech Initiative
Palo Alto, California
Published September 1, 2006
James Fruchterman is an electrical engineer-turned-entrepreneur who adapts cutting-edge technologies into affordable devices for the visually impaired and others underserved by traditional commerce. As a student, Fruchterman designed a reading machine for the blind using optical-character-recognition technology originally intended for military defense purposes. Determined to keep the cost of his reading machine within reach of the largest number of users, Fruchterman founded the non-profit company, Arkenstone, to develop and manufacture the system. He has since delivered this reading tool in a dozen languages to people in 60 countries and created a stream of other inventions for the visually impaired, including Open Book, a PC software program that reads scanned texts ranging from school books to utility bills, Atlas Speaks map software, and Strider, a talking GPS locator. In 2000, Fruchterman founded another non-profit, Benetech, as an incubator for socially-oriented technology applications. With Bookshare.org, Benetech has created a web-based library of scanned books to provide people with visual or learning disabilities downloadable access to a dramatically increased volume of printed materials. Other initiatives include Martus, a secure, computer-based reporting system to assist the human rights sector in collecting, safeguarding, and disseminating information about human rights violations, and a Landmine Detector Project with the goal of placing state-of-the-art detection devices in the hands of humanitarian deminers in war-torn countries. Fruchterman puts existing technologies to use in innovative ways to make life-changing machines for those who need them most.
James Fruchterman received a B.S. (1980) in engineering and an M.S. (1980) in applied physics from the California Institute of Technology and pursued doctoral studies at Stanford University (1980-1981). Prior to founding Benetech, where he serves as president, CEO, and chairman, he was president, CEO, and chairman of Arkenstone, Inc. (1989-2000) and co-founder and vice president of Calera Recognition Systems, Inc. (1982-1989). Fruchterman also served as co-founder and CFO of RAF Technology, Inc. (1989-2004).
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