A model wears a FingerReader ring at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab in Cambridge, Mass.
Researchers at MIT have developed a new technology that enables blind and vision-impaired people to read any printed text without the use of braille.
The "FingerReader" is a 3D-printed, ring-like device fitted with a small camera that scans and reads words out loud in real-time, as users follow text with their finger. It is "a tool both for visually impaired people that require help with accessing printed text, as well as an aid for language translation," according to the FingerReader's website.
The device offers an experience like "reading with the tip of your finger" to people who cannot see, according to Pattie Maes, an MIT professor involved with creating the prototype. "It's a lot more flexible, a lot more immediate than any solution that they have right now," she told the Associated Press.
Other Optical Character Recognition devices exist, including Text Detective and Say Text, but the FingerReader is unique in its mobility and adaptability, according to developer Roy Shilkrot. It is the only wearable device of its kind that allows blind and vision-impaired users to read with the "well-practiced gesture of using the index finger to trace written text," he said.
The FingerReader is geared toward reading multiple words and entire lines of texts. It connects to a laptop or mobile phone, allowing users to take the device with them to read items such as restaurant menus, business cards or any other text that is larger than 12-point font. The FingerReader also gives vibration-based feedback to users if they stray from the text's baseline.
The device, which took three years to design and develop, is currently just a prototype. However, researchers said they hope to attract investors, and soon produce an affordable, marketable device for the public.
"Almost 3% of the population is visually impaired, so that is the market size for the FingerReader," according to MIT. "Down the road, we think it has potential to assist not only visually impaired persons but also the elderly, children, language learners and tourists."
Tags: BLIND, GADGETS, HEALTH & FITNESS, INTERNET OF THINGS, MIT, Tech, VISION