A Small Ring and an Index Finger May Revolutionize the Way the Blind “Sees” the World

The genius’ of the MIT Media Lab have come up with an innovative solution to helping blind people read. Currently only about 7% of printed material is available in Braille, audio or large print. For the visually impaired, that means over 90% of the content that sighted people are able to read is inaccessible to them. With the finger reader, the blind will be able to read anything that is released in print, plus labels and other necessary items in their daily life.

How Does the Finger Reader Work?

The technology behind the Finger Reader allows for the user to hear printed words as they move their finger across the text. Worn like a ring on the index finger, a camera inside of the device captures the image which is then translated and transmitted back in the form of a voice. The person wearing the device can move their finger fast or slow and will even be advised if they gone off line or are re-reading the same line of text.

Is the Finger Reader Available for Sale?

Students at the prestigious MIT Media Lab focus their studies on the development of devices that are a natural extension of a person and their normal behaviors. Since so much of communication is done through pointing, the idea was conceived to make the index finger able to read what it was pointing at.

It is still a proof of concept prototype, needing additional research and development before it performs perfectly and consistently. Developers are interested in making it work faster as well as having it be a more reliable device. They would also like to make the device smaller and more visually appealing with precise applications not only for the blind but for everyone.

The process of turning a research product such as this one into a viable product available for sale typically takes one to two years. So with luck and continued determination we may see this product available for the blind in the very near future.

How is the Finger Reader Different from Other Text to Speech Devices?

The biggest difference is that the Finger Reader gives the user the real time experience of reading text and giving immediate feedback. It can coax the wearer on how to angle the device to stay on line in the same way that a sighted person uses their finger to follow text when reading. The algorithm that is used is able to interpret blocks of text at a time, rather than single words like other products already available.

Not only does the Finger Reader have the ability to help with reading blocks of print like found in a book, it can be used to read medicine labels, price tags and any other printed text that people come across during their typical day. Having the ability to read available right on their finger will prove to be a major improvement on the quality of life of the visually impaired.

This is potentially a life changing product for the estimated 39 million blind people around the world. Being able to automatically read a label, know what is inside of a box, or simply read an article like this one, is something that the sighted may take for granted, but the visually impaired will have a great appreciation for.

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