Researchers Develop A Ring That Can Read Books To The Blind Without Using Braille

A handful of researchers at MIT’s Media Labs are working on a device capable of helping visually impaired and blind individuals read without the need for Braille.

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In The World Of Wearable Revolution, Imagine A Wearable Device That Could Help The Sight-Impaired 'Read' And That Too WITHOUT The Use Of Braille

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Researchers from MIT Media Labs are developing a wearable device that can read out printed text using a synthesized voice, helping the sight-impaired read books without the use of braille. Called the FingerReader, the ring-like device has a mounted camera for scanning text.

WATCH: The FingerReader Is A Tool Both For Visually Impaired People That Require Help With Accessing Printed Text, As Well As An Aid For Language Translation

FingerReader Weighs No More Than A Regular Ring And Uses A Robot Voice That Sounds Like It Has A Speech Impediment. However, The Team Is Working On It.

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The FingerReader’s voice is clipped and metallic – what one might liken to a Berlitz tape speaking through clenched teeth – but it is something the Finger Reader team is aware of and is working on, amongst many other things. To hear the words read aloud, simply point your finger at the text you wish to read. It’s possible thanks to a small camera mounted on the ring.

To help the sight-impaired read text more efficiently, the device has cues or “haptic feedback” to help blind readers maintain a straight scanning motion with their finger. It gives out a vibration signal when their finger veers away from the line of text, and does the same thing when they’ve reached the end and the start of every line of text.

However, The Device Has Its Limitations As It Can Only Read 12-Point Printed Text

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It doesn’t work with text as small as, say, on a medicine bottle or baseball box scores, but it can read 12-point printed text, the on-screen computer component shown in the video above highlighting each word to the sound of what Shilkrot described as “bings and beeps.” Stray too far from a line, and a dial tone-like noise increases. Remain on the line of text and you can hear it.

And though – as a whole – the FingerReader sounds like a ‘Reading Pen,’ Huber and Shilkrot differentiate it from the Reading Pen, noting that it gives real time feedback, whereas the Reading Pen does not, and that their software can read a whole line of text, and not one word at a time, as is the case with a Reading Pen.

In An Interview, Researcher Roy Shilkrot Said He Didn’t Envision The Final Version Of The 'FingerReader' To Be Only For People With Sight Difficulties

MIT’s Media Labs, researcher Roy Shilkrot

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He said it was for people with “disability, ability, and superability,” and suggested a scenario in which the Finger Reader translated text in another language. He said it was worth noting that the blind and visually impaired liked using devices that weren’t built just for them.

He also pointed towards a study conducted by the Royal National Institute of the Blind in Britain that noted in 2011 that “only seven per cent of books are available in large print, unabridged audio and braille, including titles available in these formats as eBooks,” noting that an easy-to-use device would open up a lot of heretofore unread texts.

The Team Behind The FingerReader Is Said To Be Looking Into Miniaturization And Features Such As Tethering To A PC Or Smartphone

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Though there is no immediate plan to take FingerReader to market, Shilkrot is “aware of the costs of devices these days. [Even so], we still can’t say how much the FingerReader will cost as a consumer product. The technology is still evolving around miniaturization, stand-alone wireless operation, tethering to a PC or smartphone.”

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