Researchers have developed a device to be worn on an index finger that can essentially allow blind people to read a page.
Called the FingerReader, the device has a small camera that scans words, which are then read aloud by a synthesized voice, the Associated Press reported. The audio reading device is currently a prototype manufactured by a 3-D printer and lets people with impaired vision "read" books, restaurant menus, paperwork and other materials especially when away from home.
"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," Jerry Berrier, who was born blind and manages a federal program to help people who have lost sight and hearing, told the AP.
The FingerReader has developed after three years of tinkering through code software, experiments and focus group feedback. The device still needs a substantial amount of work before it will be ready for the market, according to FingerReader developer Roy Shilkrot.
The device can read print materials as well as onscreen text, but it has issues with touchscreens since text is moved around.
The main appeal of FingerReader is the offer of being able to read in real time at a doctor's office, a restaurant or a school, Berrier said.
"Any tool that we can get that gives us better access to printed material helps us to live fuller, richer, more productive lives," he told the AP.
The FingerReader is akin to "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," described Pattie Maes. An MIT professor, Maes founded and leads the Fluid Interfaces research group that is working to develop the FingerReader prototype.