Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing an affordable finger reader for people whose vision is impaired.

The so-called FingerReader, a prototype produced by a 3D printer, fits like a ring on the user's finger, equipped with a small camera that scans text. Special software processes scanned words and synthesized voice immediately reads words aloud, quickly translating books, restaurant menus and other needed materials for daily living, especially away from home or office.

Reading is as easy as pointing the finger at text. Special software tracks the finger movement, identifies words and processes the information. The device also has vibration motorsand other cues that alert readers when they stray from the script, said Roy Shilkrot, who is developing the device at the MIT Media Lab.

To develope the gadget, it has taken three years of software coding, experimenting with various designs and working on feedback from a test group of . But, much more work remains before it is ready for the market, including making it work on cellphones, said Roy Shilkrot. He also said that the FingerReader can read papers, magazines, newspapers, books, computer screens and other devices, but it has problems with text on a touch screen.
The FingerReader will not replace Braille—the system of six raised dots that form words, read by touch. Instead, Shilkrot said, this new device will enable users to access a large number of books and other reading material that are not currently available in Braille.

For Jerry Berrier, 62, who was born blind and has tested the FingerReader, the promise of the FingerReader is its portability and offer of real-time functionality at school, a doctor's office and restaurants.  He believes it will help people with visual impairment get immediate access to texts and live fuller, richer, more productive lives.