If you want a crystal ball’s eye view into our very cool future, you need to follow the happenings over at MIT Media Lab. Back in January, we told you about Sensory Fiction, an experience they created that makes you (literally) feel what the characters on the pages of your favorite book feel. As awesome as that is (soooo awesome), they’re working on a new wearable that might be even more useful in bringing the words on any page to life.
The FingerReader is a ring-like device (think Beyonce, “Single Ladies”-style) that reads to you. You fit it on your finger, trace along the words on a page and a small mounted camera picks them up and reads them out loud. A special vibration signals the end and start of a new line as you skim across the page. Although it might look a little clunky for its public premiere, FingerReader is made of plasticine and is about as light as a regular ring.
As the below video of FingerReader in action demos, you can use it to read on your e-reader of choice, too. We thought this meant you could take it anywhere, but the wearable can only decipher text that clocks in with a font size 12 or bigger (so, not medicine labels or fine print for now).
There are a few wearable rings looking for crowdsourcing right now, but most focus on connecting you with your other devices. Although you might assume FingerReader was meant mainly to help the blind, Roy Shilkrot, one of the PhD students behind the project, says it’s for anyone with “disability, ability and superability.” As TechCrunch reports, Shilkrot points out that the blind and visually impaired appreciate devices that weren’t built just for them, but instead have a wider range of uses in mind. Still, he notes that only 7% of books are actually available in braille, large print and unabridged audio (side note: WHAT?!) so a device like this could open up the other 93% for all.
We like where his head is at. If this idea could be applied to translating as well as reading, think about how useful it would be to travelers or anyone learning a new language. It could also be a handy tool for kids learning how to read to take their word adventures off of their LeapFrogs and into the real world.
FingerReader is still in its trial stages and has a few kinks to work out, like whittling down the size (maybe?) and updating the robotic voice (definitely!). Surely it will be something more Siri-like by the time it’s available to accept our Kickstarter pledges.
How would FingerReader be most useful to you? Share your thoughts below about this + other futuristic innovations that you think are cool in the comments!