Point and Read: MIT’s FingerReader, an Alternative to Braille

MIT Researchers have released a prototype for the FingerReader, a wearable device that assists the visually impaired in accessing printed text. Consisting of a ring the user wears on her/his finger, the FingerReader’s internal camera scans text off a printed page and gives immediate audio feedback – that is, it reads the text out loud. It also includes a haptic interpretation of the text layout, which alerts the user when s/he reaches the end of a line or wanders away from the baseline of the text.

Essentially, this wearable technology grants the visually impaired simple, portable access to printed materials that previously may have been out of their reach. Menus, magazines, and street signs are all examples of printed information that we encounter on a daily basis that have remained largely inaccessible to the visually impaired; with the FingerReader, they just have to point at the text to hear it.

Nearly 3% of the world’s population is visually impaired, and only about 9% can read Braille – this means that there is a real need for a braille alternative. The FingerReader’s simplicity and wear-ability render it a viable solution.

Beyond providing assistance to the visually impaired, researchers at MIT see many potential applications of the FingerReader’s technology. The same basic approach of a camera and speech-enabled ring on a finger could be applicable to people learning to read and pronounce another language, to translation, or to children learning to read.

Still, at this stage, the FingerReader is just a prototype. The research team at MIT is looking into making it commercially available in the future, and are excited to explore the many markets this innovative product could serve – from the visually impaired to the elderly, children, language learners, and more.

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