A handful of researchers at MIT’s Media Labs are working on a device capable of helping visually impaired and blind individuals read without the need for Braille. The FingerReader is equipped with a small camera that scans printed text and reads it out loud using a synthesized voice.

The current prototype is worn on the finger and is said to weigh no more than a regular ring. It uses heavily modified open source software and can read 12-point and larger printed text as well as on-screen text from, say, a Kindle.

The device uses haptic feedback (a tiny vibration) when the reader reaches the end of a line, starts a new line or strays too far above or below a line.

As you will no doubt notice in the demo video above, the device is little more than a proof of concept at this point and there’s a lot of work remaining. The synthesized voice is crude at best and you certainly won’t win any speed reading awards as the device operates at a snail’s pace. What’s more, the prototype isn’t exactly the most attractive gadget either.

But fortunately, these are all things that can and will be improved upon should the team eventually bring the FingerReader to market.

Researcher Roy Shilkrot says the final version won’t be just for people that have trouble seeing. It could also one day be used as an on-the-fly language translator, for example.