Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Is FingerReader Positive Wearable Technology?
We talk of wearable technology and see a deluge of wantabees who all want to be seen in their ‘Emporer’s New Clothes.’ But it often is frustrating that we continue to leave many behind in our search for the next best gadget to be seen with. We were taken aback years ago when we saw the ‘sixth sense’ development of Pranev Mistryand today some of the most exciting technology still remains with the likes of MIT.
This week, we read of a MIT’s finger device, which is not an iRing or iWatch mini, but a remarkable device aimed at helping the visually Impaired read and engage with the written word. It is still surprising that some ten years since we wrote the ‘Brave New World’ report and we envisaged the era of the audio digital. However, its mass adoption remains untapped and communities, such as the visually impaired, are still being left behind. We obviously saw then that it was a simple transition from physical audiobook to digital audiobook and although much has happened, little mass adoption either upstream or downstream has occurred. At the time, many saw print on demand and the digitalised text as offering the solution to large print books and specialised monitors, but again much has happened, but mass adoption hasn’t.
So what have MIT delivered with their FingerReader?
FingerReader is a device which today looks clunky and very much a prototype, but through its camera is capable of character recognition and real time audio delivery. Assisting the visually impaired with effectively and efficiently, reading paper printed and ereader text must be a goal to strive for. FingerReader addresses the issues of misalignment, focus, character accuracy, mobility and efficiency, introduces a new method of scanning text of single lines, blocks of text or skimming the text for important sections on the go, whilst giving the reader instant audio and a tactile feedback.
So what you may ask and how does this help others?
Well today the initial focus is no the visually impaired and can enable the blind to read without the need for Braille, or the visually impaired to read without large print or blow up monitors. But the technology offers much more to all and takes us one step further towards the true wearable and tactical interfaces we lack today. Imagine just pointing you finger at text and hearing an instantaneous playback and also capturing the text at the same time. We would suggest that this is far more useful than creating a digital watch.
Imagine, joining the dots between speech recognition and controls, OCR, Audio and all in the pocket package of a smartphone.
Currently, FingerReader needs to be connected to a laptop, but the researchers are now developing an open-source version that will be able to use Android phones. Now that really opens up wider opportunities for all.