An audio reading device to give the vision impaired cheap and easy access to printed words is being developed by scientists in the US.
Named the ‘FingerReader’, the 3D-printed device is equipped with a tiny camera that can scan text, and a synthesised voice will read the words aloud. The device is worn around the user’s finger like a ring, and can be used to read items such as books, restaurant menus, formal documents, maps, and anything on a computer screen.
Developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, the device allows users to simply point their finger at the text they want to read. According to Rodrique Ngowi at Phys.org, the FingerReader has special software installed that tracks the user’s finger movements, identifies the written words and processes the information. It also has vibration motors that let the users know if their fingers are straying from the written text.
Ngowi at Phys.org spoke to Jerry Berrier, a man who was born blind and now works for a government program in the US that distributes technology to help low-income people who have lost their sight and hearing. Berrier said that he hadn’t come across any other devices like this that could read printed words in real time. "Everywhere we go, for folks who are sighted, there are things that inform us about the products that we are about to interact with. I wanna be able to interact with those same products, regardless of how I have to do it,” said Berrier.
According to a member of the team, Roy Shilkrot from the MIT Media Lab, the FingerReader would not replace Braille, but would be available for all the reading materials the visually impaired will encounter in their daily lives that aren’t available in Braille.
The team is now working to get the device through testing so it’s ready for market, and they’re hoping to also get it working on smartphones.