FingerReader - Wearable Text-Reading Device from Fluid Interfaces on Vimeo.

New reading technology for the blind.

I ran across a couple of stories this week about new reading technology for the blind. Since they involve products meant to complement traditional books, I thought I’d share them with you.

TechCrunch first reported on this back in April, but it’s making the media rounds now. At MIT’s Media Labs, researchers are working on the “FingerReader,” a device that is worn on the finger and reads text out loud.

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.

Developers say that it doesn’t work with very small text, but it can read 12-point printed text. And in this world where only a small percentage of books are available in large print, unabridged audio and braille, this new technology might open a lot of books.

And last week, Mashable reported that researchers at the University of Colorado are working on a project called The Tactile Picture Books Project. This project “can convert standard picture books into 3D-printed pages, letting children with visual impairments follow the raised illustrations by touch as the stories are read aloud.”

So far, the Tactile Picture Books Project collection includes Goodnight MoonThe Very Hungry Caterpillar, and The Cat in the Hat.


Beth Golay

Beth is a reader, writer, marketer and Books & Whatnot founder. Even though she knows better, she's a sucker for a good book cover and will positively swoon if a book is set in appropriate type. @BethGolay