Ring on your finger snaps text and reads it back, offering help for visually impaired

Source: Sunday

A ring that helps you to see might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but in a lab at Auckland University it’s becoming a reality.

The FingerReader is a ring with a tiny camera that photographs text and reads it back to you. It’s the brainchild of Suranga Nanayakkara, who started work on this project at MIT in the States.

Now the 18-member team has set up base at the Augmented Human Lab at Auckland University and is hoping to further its development.

For Daniel Holt, who has been visually impaired since birth and has 10 percent of average eyesight, innovations like this could be life changing.

Everyday tasks like catching the bus are challenging. He says he takes a photo of the bus timetable with his phone and then blows it up until he can read the text. He says buses approach fast and often by the time he realises it’s his – they’ve gone.

Daniel can see the potential of a device like the FingerReader and he’s curious to try it out. It’s easy to use, and after one go he’s mastered it, pointing it at books and magazines.

“If I could point this at a menu in a café, that would be amazing,” he says.

Sandra Budd, the CEO of the Blind Foundation says innovations like the finger reader are incredibly important for the visually impaired.

“It’s bringing technology innovations into the mainstream for them. It means that there are options available. We really thank them with our heart because what its actually doing is making life one of choice for them.”  

The scientists behind the project say it’s not just for the visually impaired, a trial with dyslexic children is currently underway in Singapore and they hope it can be used as a translator too, but there’s more work to be done.

Suranga Nanayakkara insists he wants it to be a cool gadget – one everyone wants to use. He says a blind friend told him it had to be as pretty as a wristwatch for him to wear it.

In fact the original inspiration came from watching a blind friend struggling to take notes in lectures.

“My hope is it really will become something that blind people use on a daily basis.”