The visually impaired can now read non-Braille text with the help of a new reading aid innovation developed by scientists from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The co-creators are Suranga Nanayakkara and Jochen Huber from SUTD, and Pattie Maes and Roy Shilkrot from MIT.

Called the FingerReader, Nanayakkara claims that this device is the first reading aid of its kind.

A report by The Straits Times dated August 4, 2014, explains that to operate this device, all the user has to do is to slip it on his finger-as if it were a ring-and then scan the finger across texts on computer screens or on paper. The FingerReader will read out any text the user points at in real time, which is captured by a tiny high-resolution video camera on the front of the device through software on a computer or mobile device.

To better aid the visually impaired user in accurately tracing and capturing lines of text, the device uses haptic feedback (involving the sense of touch) in beeps and vibrations to guide the finger. It will let the user know if the finger has strayed too far from the line, if the text has ended, or if the finger is positioned at an undesirable angle.

In the same report, Nanayakkara said that when completed, the device will be wireless and portable, so that the user can conveniently carry it around with him.

His team is currently into its third year of research and development work, and hopes to make the FingerReader commercially available at an affordable cost within the next two years. He added that since the device could only read out English text, his team hopes to be able to expand its reading capability to other languages in the future.