There is no shortage of audiovisual software and Braille scanners for the visually impaired. In many ways, such technology allows people to overcome their visual disabilities and consume media and books like anyone else. But many of these systems aren’t very mobile, and in the end, they require a series of multiple steps to translate text into audio.
Helping to close that gap is the FingerReader, developed by MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group. The prototype is a finger-mounted computer that reads text aloud as users run their finger across each word. Here’s how researchers describe it:
The FingerReader is a wearable device that assists in reading printed text. It is a tool both for visually impaired people that require help with accessing printed text, as well as an aid for language translation. Wearers scan a text line with their finger and receive an audio feedback of the words and a haptic feedback of the layout: start and end of line, new line, and other cues. The FingerReader algorithm knows to detect and give feedback when the user veers away from the baseline of the text, and helps them maintain a straight scanning motion within the line.
However, as you can see in the video, the device is a bit glitchy and sluggish, but this is a prototype after all. And if you were expecting a warm, husky voice like Scarlett Johansson’s in the operating system in the movie Her, keep dreaming. FingerReader’s voice is very robotic, but then again, that’s pretty standard for audiovisual software for the visually impaired.
Credit: MIT Media Lab, Fluid Interfaces Group