EyeRing finger-mounted connected cam captures signs and dollar bills, identifies them with OCR (hands-on)

Ready to swap that diamond for a finger-mounted camera with a built-in trigger and Bluetooth connectivity? If it could help identify otherwise indistinguishable objects, you might just consider it. The MIT Media Lab's EyeRing project was designed with an assistive focus in mind, helping visually disabled persons read signs or identify currency, for example, while also serving to assist children during the tedious process of learning to read. Instead of hunting for a grownup to translate text into speech, a young student could direct EyeRing at words on a page, hit the shutter release, and receive a verbal response from a Bluetooth-connected device, such as a smartphone or tablet. EyeRing could be useful for other individuals as well, serving as an ever-ready imaging device that enables you to capture pictures or documents with ease, transmitting them automatically to a smartphone, then on to a media sharing site or a server.

We peeked at EyeRing during our visit to the MIT Media Lab this week, and while the device is buggy at best in its current state, we can definitely see how it could fit into the lives of people unable to read posted signs, text on a page or the monetary value of a currency note. We had an opportunity to see several iterations of the device, which has come quite a long way in recent months, as you'll notice in the gallery below. The demo, which like many at the Lab includes a Samsung Epic 4G, transmits images from the ring to the smartphone, where text is highlighted and read aloud using a custom app. Snapping the text "ring," it took a dozen or so attempts before the rig correctly read the word aloud, but considering that we've seen much more accurate OCR implementations, it's reasonable to expect a more advanced version of the software to make its way out once the hardware is a bit more polished -- at this stage, EyeRing is more about the device itself, which had some issues of its own maintaining a link to the phone. You can get a feel for how the whole package works in the video after the break, which required quite a few takes before we were able to capture an accurate reading.