Oct 18, 2018 | Updated: 04:34 PM EDT

Technology for the Blind: New Finger Device Reads to Visually Impaired People in Real Time

Jul 17, 2014 08:36 PM EDT

Finger reader
(Photo : Sudhamshu Hebbar/Flickr)

A new Massachusetts Institute of Technology device will help vision-impaired people to read in real time as they interact with written instructions in their daily lives.

The FingerReader, whose prototype was made from a 3D printer, is worn on the index finger and reads aloud any text that the wearer scrolls over with his or her finger. Equipped with a camera that scans the text as the finger slides across the page, while a synthesized voice reads the words, quickly translating items from books, newspapers or menus. The ring also carries a built-in vibration motor that buzzes when the reader strays from the text line.

"The FingerReader is like 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," Pattie Maes, MIT professor leading the Fluids Interfaces research group that is developing the device, said.

The FingerReader offers Jerry Berrier, 62, the chance to interact with the many written directions and information that guide daily activity at the same pace as sighted people. The portability of the finger ring is also crucial for understanding instructions while out of the home or office.

"When I go to the doctor's office, there may be forms that I [want to] read before I sign them," Berrier said.

Berrier, who was born blind, works in the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts and helps manage a federal program that gives technology to low-income people with vision or hearing loss in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

"Everywhere we go, for folks who are sighted, there are things that inform us about the products that we are about to interact with," Berrier said. "I wanna be able to interact with those same products, regardless of how I have to do it."

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