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Finger-mounted reading device for the blind people

As a marketing manager, you are always looking for new and innovative ways to reach your audience. What if there was a way to read any text that is in front of you just by touching it? That’s exactly what the Fingerreader can do.

What a FingerReader is and how it works

The FingerReader is the world's first finger-mounted reading device for blind and visually impaired people.

This device can be mounted on the index or middle finger and has tactile feedback to allow the user to know when they are at the end of a line, as well as buttons for page up and down. The tactile feedback also allows visually impaired people to use it in environments where they cannot see what is written, such as in dark settings or outside during nighttime hours. Fingerreader connects wirelessly via Bluetooth 4.0 LE and charges through its mini USB port. It comes with an app called FingerReader+ which automatically synchronizes new books from libraries worldwide!

FingerReader+ is a free app available in the Apple App Store or Google Play, and it automatically synchronizes new books from libraries worldwide!"

The device itself has an infrared camera mounted on the end of it and converts written text into audible speech via speakers. The Fingerreader was designed to be compact and unobtrusive, with the hope of making it more socially acceptable. The prototype is currently housed in a ring-shaped enclosure that attaches to the index finger by way of adhesive tape. It has both an image sensor for reading text from paper as well as a microphone for audio input/output (i.e., speech). The key to its real-time performance is an algorithm for processing the camera’s video feed. Each time the user positions their finger at the start of a new line, the algorithm makes a host of guesses about the baseline of letters. The algorithm also tracks each individual word as it slides past the camera. When it recognizes that a word is positioned near the center of the field of view, it crops just that word out of the image. The baseline estimate also allows the algorithm to realign words.

Who are the creators of FingerReader

MIT Media Lab researchers Roy Shilkrot and Jochen Huber are leading developers for the project who have been working with Ph.D. students at Beijing Institute of Technology as well as blind people from Germany and France for feedback since 2013.

“You really need to have a tight coupling between what the person hears and where the fingertip is,” says Roy Shilkrot, an MIT graduate student in media arts and sciences. “For visually impaired users, this is a translation. It’s something that translates whatever the finger is ‘seeing’ to audio.

It’s estimated that there are 285 million people worldwide living with visual impairments or blindness, yet this market still remains largely untapped by manufacturers due to the high costs associated with printing books and converting websites into accessible formats. So, the device that helps people to read and have immediate access to the printed text while being smaller, more convenient and affordable than refreshable braille display, could conquer the market and do that quite fast. Especially if the producers of the fingerreader will plan their marketing strategy well and buy leads from a good agency.

“It’s a good idea to use your finger in place of eye motion because fingers are just as dexterous and they can scan things quickly like the eye,” says George Stetten, a physician and engineer with joint appointments at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute and the University of Pittsburgh's Bioengineering Department.

How the Finger Reader could be used

They hope their product could be used not only by those with visual impairments but also:

  • Anyone looking to read while doing something else.
  • People who have physical disabilities such as arthritis.
  • The Fingerreader is an alternative to Braille for those who cannot use their fingers or hands to access the written word.

Since they started working on their device, the researchers have also discovered that it may have broader applications than they initially realized. “Since we started working on that, it really became obvious to us that anyone who needs help with reading can benefit from this,” Shilkrot says. “We got many emails and requests from organizations, but also just parents of children with dyslexia, for instance.”

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