People with severely impaired vision have difficulty when it comes to reading text. There are Braille versions of books, but very few titles are produced in that format. There are lots of adaptive technology products, including cameras that put a magnified image on a screen, text-to-speech scanners, and other devices, but these tend to be expensive and large. They do not provide a mobile solution.

A team in the Fluid Interfaces Group at MIT’s Media Labs have created a prototype device to address this problem: the FingerReader. Created using a 3D printer, this is a camera that mounts on your finger like a large ring. It then scans the words as you run your finger under a line of text. It then converts this text to speech, and reads the text aloud. Haptic feedback makes the ring vibrate in different ways to let the user know when they are reaching the end of a line, or are at the start of a new line. Haptics also provide warnings when their finger starts to track too high or too low on the line.

The researchers envision other applications for this technology. It could help users with dyslexia read printed content faster and more accurately. It could also be helpful in teaching people learn a new language. It could also be paired with a translation engine to provide instant translation of printed content into the user’s language.