Device helps blind read print. The FingerReader is audio reading gadget for index finger

8 July 2014, 12:18 pm EDT By Michael McEnaney Tech Times
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a prototype audio reader using a 3D printer that fits like a ring on the user's finger. It is equipped with a small camera that scans text.  ( MIT Fluid Interfaces Research Group )

We've covered lots of new wearable tech over the last several months, some of which was fairly cool and some of which was fairly useless.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab have developed something that will truly lift the category to new heights.

Take a gander at the FingerReader, a ring that slips on the index finger and enables people with visual disabilities to read text printed on paper or electronic devices. A mood sweater this is most certainly not.

The prototype the MIT team is showing off was created using a 3D printer and fit very snugly on the user's index finger. A small camera positioned on the top of the ring actually scans the text. As the user moves their finger across the text, a synthesized voice reads the words aloud, quickly translating the text from any printed material including books, newspapers and restaurant menus.

The developers created a software program that tracks the finger's movements, identifies each word and then processes that information for the synthesized voice to read aloud. Should the users stray from the correct order of the text on the page, vibration motors are activated alerting the reader that their finger has gone off course.

"The FingerReader is like reading with the tip of your finger and it's a lot more flexible, a lot more immediate than any solution that they have right now," explained Pattie Maes, an MIT professor who founded and leads the Fluid Interfaces research group developing the prototype.

While the MIT team that developed the device feels it will be able to affordably bring the device to market, there's no guess at a final price.

The National Federation for the Blind estimates that 20.6 million adult Americans (or nearly 10% of all adult Americans) have reported they either "have trouble" seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, or that they are blind or unable to see at all.

The developers of the FingerReader might be interested to know that the National Federation for the Blind further reports that the number of legally blind children (through age 21) enrolled in elementary and high school in the U.S. eligible to receive free reading matter in Braille, large print, or audio format stands at over 59,000.

And the organization adds that the number of noninstitutionalized males or females under 20 years of age in the United States, including all races and at all education levels, who reported a visual disability as of the beginning of 2012 stood at 656,100.

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