Researchers from MIT Media Labs are developing a wearable device that can read out printed text using a synthesized voice, helping the sight-impaired read books without the use of braille. Called the FingerReader, the ring-like device has a mounted camera for scanning text.
Audio feedback comes in the form of a robot voice that sounds like it has a speech impediment. However, according to the research team’s website, the device is “just a research prototype at this point,” so audio feedback would be fixed if and when it becomes available to the mass market.
To help the sight-impaired read text more efficiently, the device has cues or “haptic feedback” to help blind readers maintain a straight scanning motion with their finger. It gives out a vibration signal when their finger veers away from the line of text, and does the same thing when they’ve reached the end and the start of every line of text.
The device can’t read the fine print in your contracts, but it can detect 12-point printed text, which is ubiquitous enough when it comes to printed text. In an interview with TechCrunch, Roy Shilkrot, one of the researchers for the project, hopes that the device will help more than the visually impared. He said that the device is for people with “disability, ability, and superability” and hinted that it could be used to translate languages.
The team behind the FingerReader is said to be looking into miniaturization and features such as tethering to a PC or smartphone. If you want to see the device in action, check out the demo video below.