Ring on your finger snaps text and reads it back, offering help for visually impaired

A ring that helps you to see might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but in a lab at Auckland University it’s becoming a reality.

The FingerReader is a ring with a tiny camera that photographs text and reads it back to you. It’s the brainchild of Suranga Nanayakkara, who started work on this project at MIT in the States.

Now the 18-member team has set up base at the Augmented Human Lab at Auckland University and is hoping to further its development.

For Daniel Holt, who has been visually impaired since birth and has 10 percent of average eyesight, innovations like this could be life changing.

Everyday tasks like catching the bus are challenging. He says he takes a photo of the bus timetable with his phone and then blows it up until he can read the text. He says buses approach fast and often by the time he realises it’s his – they’ve gone.

Daniel can see the potential of a device like the FingerReader and he’s curious to try it out. It’s easy to use, and after one go he’s mastered it, pointing it at books and magazines.

“If I could point this at a menu in a café, that would be amazing,” he says.

Sandra Budd, the CEO of the Blind Foundation says innovations like the finger reader are incredibly important for the visually impaired.

“It’s bringing technology innovations into the mainstream for them. It means that there are options available. We really thank them with our heart because what its actually doing is making life one of choice for them.”  

The scientists behind the project say it’s not just for the visually impaired, a trial with dyslexic children is currently underway in Singapore and they hope it can be used as a translator too, but there’s more work to be done.

Suranga Nanayakkara insists he wants it to be a cool gadget – one everyone wants to use. He says a blind friend told him it had to be as pretty as a wristwatch for him to wear it.

In fact the original inspiration came from watching a blind friend struggling to take notes in lectures.

“My hope is it really will become something that blind people use on a daily basis.”

The “finger reader” turns text into speech in seconds. The latest in Sunday’s Innovate series has to be seen to be believed. Source: Sunday

National's medicinal cannabis decisions 'hard to see as more than a stunt' – 1 NEWS political team

Inside Parliament, our weekly look politics, discusses the hotly-debated topic of medicinal cannabis.

It comes after National Party leader Simon Bridges confirmed they would be pulling support for the Government's medicinal cannabis bill, and put forward their own member's bill, which will only go through Parliament if picked from the ballot. 

"You guys [referring to National] had nine years in power; you refused to look at this issue," said reporter Benedict Collins. 

He said it was hard to see it as any more "than a stunt" and that it was disappointing to see this carry-on, especially for those suffering and in need of medicinal cannabis.

Mr Bridges denied that it was a stunt in a press conference

1 NEWS' political editor Jess Mutch asked why his party has put forward a bill now after nine years in power. Source: 1 NEWS

National's bill proposes a licensing regime and approval for medicinal cannabis products in the way medicine is approved by Metsafe. 

1NEWS’ weekly catch up with our reporters about the biggest stories of the week. Source: 1 NEWS

Listen to the full podcast on SoundcloudiTunes and & Facebook.

“You guys had nine years in power; you refused to look at this issue,” said reporter Benedict Collins after National pulled support from the Government’s bill and created their own. Source: 1 NEWS


Huge jump in synthetic cannabis deaths - coroner

There's been a huge spike in the number of people dying from synthetic cannabis.

Provisional figures from the coroner show between 40 - 45 people died in the year since last June - in the previous five years there was only one death.

The figures are causing doctors, families and the Drug Foundation to call for swift action to get it off the streets.

Synthetic cannabis was outlawed in 2014, and before that, it could be bought over the counter at the local dairy.

One ex-user, who wanted to remain anonymous, described what the drug did to her.

"You kind of just spin out, like you can't really move, you kind of just turn into a zombie," she said.

"You kind of just close your eyes and you're not really you anymore ... it makes you vomit sometimes."

She and her partner kept using it after it was made illegal, until one day things got too much.

"We couldn't find any. We'd run out and we had none left ... and I just lost it," she said.

"I was rolling around on the ground, like truly just screaming, ripping my clothes off myself and that was when my partner decided 'that's enough, we're not doing it anymore'."

Increasing deaths

St John Ambulance said it received about 30 callouts a week from people in trouble after taking the drug.

A doctor in the Wellington hospital's emergency department, Paul Quigley, said deaths were increasing because batches were becoming too potent for the body to handle.

The batches were manufactured from chemicals discarded by pharmaceutical companies, he said.

"The pharmaceutical companies are spending billions of dollars in trying to work out what parts of the cannabis plant could be used as a pharmaceutical drug to relieve pain, stop seizures, help people with a condition known as spasticity."

Those drugs were then thrown out by the companies, and picked up by the black market.

Dr Quigley said the first instance of this was back in 2006, but he said there had been a recent resurgence.

"It's very easy to get these agents from overseas in a liquid form. The cannabis market itself appears to be reasonably difficult and expensive at the moment and so the drug dealers are dealing in this much cheaper, easier to make and provide product."

Side effects

He said manufacturers and dealers did not realise how strong these chemicals were and that they could cause users to suffer serious side effects including vomiting, seizures, hallucinations and arrhythmia.

Some users also reported suffering suicidal thoughts.

Harley Pataka killed himself in 2014 at the age of 23.

His mother, Katie Bayliss, said her son was a happy and well-loved boy, who enjoyed skating with his friends.

But that all changed when he became addicted to synthetic cannabis, she said.

"He became withdrawn, angry, a friend of mine told me that the weekend before he passed away she went over to where he was living and she walked in and she slapped his leg and he just looked at her as if he didn't even know who she was."

Where to next?

Ms Bayliss said her family had been ripped apart by the drug, which she said could be eradicated by the decriminalisation of marijuana.

The executive director of the Drug Foundation, Ross Bell, agreed.

"If we did have a regulated market for natural cannabis then we could have gone a long way to avoid, you know, many of these problems," he said.

"And even at the time when the country was having the big debate about legal highs there were lots of arguments saying that actually, you know, lets legalise natural cannabis to get rid of synthetic stuff."

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Source: 1 NEWS