It's amazing that we take this stuff so much for granted -- I see this and think -- "that's not a bad idea" -- if you'd shown me this 20 years ago I would have been jumping up and down screaming "OMG!!!"
It really doesn't look like it to me. I suspect it is webcam data being fed to a computer. I think the ring is currently only a camera and vibration motor with the electronics to control them both. I could totally be wrong though, and kind of hope I am!
Our software runs on Mac and Windows machines, and the source code is available to download1. We focused on runtime efficiency, and typical frame processing time on our machine is within 20ms, which is suitable for realtime processing. Low running time is important to support randomly skimming text as well as for feedback, for the user gets an immediate response once a text region is detected.
1 Source code is currently hosted at: http://github.com/
For an early prototype like this, I wouldn't have expected too much. They've proven the concept though, so maybe now they could work on miniaturizing the components... if there's enough interest. This is the MIT media lab, not a company trying to develop/sell a product.
20+ years ago I purchased a small hand-held scanner from the renowned DAK enterprises (are they still going??). Their catalogue was full of phrases like "Finely crafted" and "State of the art" and you'd think you were getting gold-plated stuff. Alas, this scanner had an uneven roller and elongated the scan once per roller revolution - very noticeable on text.. I was in Zimbabwe and a friend in the USA had sent it to me so there was no chance of getting a refund or replacement.
The finger scanner is a great idea and I see no reason why it shouldn't work, but I can't help wondering what Drew Allan Kaplan himself would have said about it in his catalogue if he sold them :-)