Researchers at MIT's Media Lab have developed what they call the FingerReader, a 3D-printed device – worn like a ring and outfitted with a small, text-scanning camera – that enables its wearer to scan print with the tip of her finger and have it read to her in real time.
The FingerReader's software and design reportedly took three years to develop. It's not intended to replace Braille, but supplement it by providing users access to the countless books, magazines, newspapers, restaurant menus and other forms of text currently unavailable in Braille format.
Reading is as easy as pointing the finger at text. Special software tracks the finger movement, identifies words and processes the information. The device has vibration motors that alert readers when they stray from the script, said Roy Shilkrot, who is developing the device at the MIT Media Lab.
For Jerry Berrier, 62, who was born blind, the promise of the FingerReader is its portability and offer of real-time functionality at school, a doctor's office and restaurants.
"When I go to the doctor's office, there may be forms that I wanna read before I sign them," Berrier said.
He said there are other optical character recognition devices on the market for those with vision impairments, but none that he knows of that will read in real time.
The device uses audio and vibrational cues to guide visually impaired users through reading material, signaling the start and stop of lines and passages. Pretty clever. No word yet on a release date, though Shilkrot says developers hope to "affordably market" the device. More details on existing technologies at WaPo.