You would think low vision only robs a person of their sight, but you could not be more wrong. It takes away a person’s independence to perform even the smallest things in life like reading, sewing, driving, trying to recognize who you are talking to and many similar things.
Having low vision is like seeing but not seeing . Confused? Let me explain.
Low vision, a condition plaguing millions of people around the world, is when a person can’t read anything at a normal distance, even with prescription glasses, contact lenses or surgery. To be precise, there are about 135 million people around the world with some form of low vision. Sounds alarming right?
That must have made you wonder, who gets low vision? Or will I get low vision? If you are someone with any form of diabetes, a family history of eye disease or are aged 60 or above, then yes. You may experience or be already a victim of low vision.
There can be many causes of low vision. Depending on the underlying cause and severity, low vision does progress and get worse over time. A normal person’s visual acuity (clarity of vision) is 20/20. When you have become host to a low vision condition, your visual acuity starts to reduce and when it reaches to 20/200, a person is termed as legally blind.
That means you see in 20 meters what a person can see 200 meters away. Quite a difference!
Before you spiral down in despair, thinking there is no hope for people with low vision conditions, because I did say it doesn’t get better by any glasses or surgery, there is something that can help. It’s called electronic magnifiers or low vision aids, the later being the better option because low vision aids go beyond than just magnifying what you see. By leveraging cutting-edge technologies, low vision aids allow you to see clearly by addressing different aspects of vision like helping to adjust to different light conditions, enhancing blur spots, aiding in night vision and much more.
In light of that, here is a list of some of the top low vision aids for legally blind and the visually impaired. Give them a thorough read and see which low vision aid suits you the best.
A clinically validated VR low vision aid, IrisVision leverages the technology of virtual reality by combining the capabilities of Samsung’s GearVR headset and their latest smartphone.
A medical marvel in the eye health department, IrisVision is the most advanced and affordable low vision aid out there. Currently in its 3rd iteration, people with different forms of macular degeneration and been documented to have amazing results. Let’s look at the features.
Various Viewing Modes
different view modes for live viewing, like the TV mode to watch television or
view other screens like mobile devices and laptops.
You can switch to scene mode for general viewing and so much more. The great thing about the live view mode is, that you see the world through the camera lens instead of your own eye. That mechanism compensates for various kinds of visual impairment.
Extra-Wide Field of View
IrisVision comes with a wide 70 degree field of view, giving you the clearest picture possible.
You get to magnify points of interest while keeping the overall scene in context, without getting a telescope effect, a proprietary feature by IrisVision.
Convenient and Portable
IrisVision is light and portable, so you can use it anywhere you want. It comes in a neat case, so you can safely travel with it.
Comes with wireless charging and visual and audio prompts, so you can hear if you put the device on charge the right way. Beats looking for sockets to plug in your device.
You get to read everything in different mode settings such as high-contrast, different color, black and white or inverted Black and white mode. Particularly helpful for people with light sensitivity and color problems.
Another great feature, you can stream YouTube videos inside your headset and that too by using voice commands.
Operate via Voice commands
Voice commands are not just limited to streaming videos, you can operate the whole device using audio inputs, making IrisVision truly hands free.
Take a picture
IrisVision 3.0 brings the much-awaited photo gallery to IrisVision users, allowing you to take pictures and save them to an album to be viewed later. You can also take a picture of anything you want to read, and put it aside and read it on the screen of your headset.
By using advanced OCR (Optical character recognition) algorithms, IrisVision’s IrisReader reads you stories, newspaper or anything you want to read. It doesn’t just read things, it also displays the text on screen so you can actually see and hear what the IrisReader is reading.
Other than the features, you have the option of getting training via agents to help you with using the device and individual settings. The walkthroughs and tutorials are very thorough.
The most promising feature of IrisVision is its IrisBubble.
In whichever mode, you are, if you swipe up or down, a bubble appears in the middle of your screen. It feels like looking through a magnifying glass. You can jump through any of the reading modes while you are in the bubble zoom. Even better, you can zoom inside the area in the bubble. The zoom effect is super high quality and you do not get any kind of image distortion or lose focus.
One of the oldest low vision aids, eSight was first released in October 2013 and now, the most recent update came in 2017 as eSight 3. These low vision glasses use a high definition camera to process and enhance what the wearer sees. They come mounted on a pair of regular glasses.
The device is tiltable (up and down) so you don’t lose your peripheral vision, making it a mobility safe device. That means you can walk around while wearing eSight. Other than adjusting the contrast and focus, here are some of the features of eSight:
Features of eSight:
- High-definition camera
- Magnification up to 24x
- Take photos
- Stream content
- Auto focus
- A controller with buttons and touch sensitive panel
- AirPlay, so you can wirelessly stream content on an iPad or an Apple TV
eSight is great, but it still lacks
having a crystal clear focus and a crisp image quality. The image appears grainy
and a little out of focus.
That said, it may be great for people with less central vision damage, because the goggle screens are really close. People with damaged central vision, have trouble seeing things in the center of their visual field. So these might prove more helpful to people with less central vision damage.
3: Cyber Eyez
Cyber Eyez, another device paired with eye glasses, empowers people with low vision.
The whole package comes with clear glasses, with the device attached on one side and the battery on the other. You would think a device and battery attached to your glasses would make it heavy but it doesn’t. The device is surprisingly not heavy and has a really good hardware design.
You can adjust the device on various positions. Since it attaches via a rail system, you can move it forwards and backwards, pivot the screen to different angles that are comfortable to you.
Let’s look at the features Cyber Eyez comes with:
Features of Cyber Eyez
- 15x Zoom
- Offline and Online Reading Assistant (OCR)
- It’s a standard OCR, but it comes in two different modes
— You can read texts in over 100 languages with no internet connection
- Online —Going
online, you get to use ‘Seeing AI’, and really extend text recognition
capabilities to enjoy the best of what OCR can offer.
- Offline and Online Object Recognition This is different from text recognition. You can recognize objects you see in daily life and save up to 1,000 common objects in offline mode. Using it online, you can recognize over 16 billion objects right out of the box. Meaning, you won’t need to pre-train Cyber Eyez to save these objects and then recognize them.
- Free Video Calling with Skype A really cool feature by Cyber Eyez. There are times when things don’t work like they are supposed to. If you are ever caught in a jam or your OCR starts to read gibberish you can instantly start a free video chat with someone you know on Skype. Ask them what they see and listen to it through your glasses.
- Use Color Assistant to identify over 1,500 colors! Cyber Eyez is very thorough in identifying colors, not only does it tell you what the color is, it also tells you the color family so even if you don’t know what the color looks like, you’ll know what its a shade off.
- Mood Ring Mode: The one feature that sets Cyber Eyez apart is this mood ring feature. You get the ability to know if that person you’re talking to is happy, sad, angry or surprised in a matter of seconds. Pretty amazing, right?
- Scan Bar Codes: Object recognition would have felt incomplete without bar code recognition. The good thing about this one is, you don’t have to search for the bar code and hold it up for a few seconds waiting for your device to read it. Their algorithm is really quick and finds the bar code itself and answers. All you have to do is spin the product in front of your eyes and that’s it.
- Its Alexa integrated: As far as smart assistants go, Alexa is second to none and you get that with Cyber Eyez.
4: Jordy by Enhanced Vision
A wearable magnifier with a desktop CCTV capability as well, Jordy comes with a detachable lens to toggle between near and distance viewing.
The eyepieces have glared guards to
prevent light from leaking in from the sides and two choices of nose pieces.
The device is not entirely wireless,
it comes wired to a control box that also houses a battery.
The control box has buttons for
zooming in and out, choosing between different color modes, freezing frame (an
equivalent to taking a picture) and a camera mode.
There is another feature, that you
use with the locator button. When you zoom in on something, you can press the
locator button and it gives you a perspective of what you are looking at by
zooming back out, so you can see the whole picture clearly and then zoom back in.
Aira is a little different than contemporary low vision aids. I would call it more of an instant information system for the visually impaired.
It comes in the form of glasses, paired with a camera and a speaker, that connect to a smartphone app.
The device connects with a network of live human agents, trained in helping describe things to a visually impaired person. They do that by accessing the camera feed of the wearer and the person’s live location via their GPS position on a map.
Mostly people use it for reading tasks, sorting through mail and navigation.
6: Patriot View by Magnifying America
A fairly similar device to IrisVision but with lesser features, Patriot View also uses a Samsung galaxy smartphone and their Gear VR headset, to provide a clearer vision to people with low vision.
The features entail as below:
Features of Patriot View
- A field of view of 101 degree
- Streamlined controls on the side of the headset – Touch pad and buttons
- Various color and contrast modes
- Picture mode – You take a picture of something and have the device read it to you
The picture mode works great. You can take the picture of anything you want to read and use the OCR mode to read any text in that picture. In that mode, you can also switch between color modes, magnify text or even enlarge the font. If you swipe up/down on the touch pad, you can jump from line to line and have the device read you a specific line.
OrCam, is yet another low vision aid in the form of smart glasses. Termed more as a wearable assistive technology, OrCam helps the visually impaired read text, recognizes faces, identify products and more.
A small light weight device, you can carry anywhere you want.
Features of OrCam:
- Wireless and self Contained
- Magnetic surface – the device sticks on to any metallic glass frame
- Reversible – You can stick it on by either side.
- Touch Panel – No control box
- Take pictures by touching the device
- Built in gestures like point and read. It also tells you the time, if you just look at your wrist, without even wearing a watch.
- Facial recognition – Save upto 100 faces
- Color recognition
- Bar code scanner
- OCR – read text of any kind
- Recognize money
One thing setting OrCam apart is the point and read capability. It activates with the movement of your finger. So, when you put your finger up while wearing it, the device reads where you point. An example scenario would be, you wishing to read the ingredients on the back of a container. By simply looking at the container and pointing at the text you wish to read, OrCam reads it for you.
Magnifiers and Glasses
That’s it for the top low vision aids, let’s talk about electronic magnifiers or what some would say, CCTV magnifiers. These also pack a good punch, but not as powerful as the low vision aids mentioned above. As the name magnifiers makes it evident, these devices show more potential in magnification. Any good electronic magnifier would give you zoom in/out capabilities of 1.25x to 20x, give or take. A set of features common to most magnifiers includes:
Common features in CCTV or electronic magnifier:
- LCD with HD camera
- Large tactile buttons with bump dots in various colors to make it easy to use and see.
- Adjustable brightness with lights on/off feature
- Various color select modes
- Audible feedback
- Light weight – making it easy to carry around and hold
- Freeze frame with image save capability and PC download
- Having different languages with high-quality natural male or female voices
- Import/Export document feature through USB port
- Auto focus & one push manual focus for viewing objects at any distance
- Wi-Fi capability
- Various OCR Features
Some famous magnifiers that justify the above mentioned features include:
- Pebble HD
- Amigo HD
- Transformer HD
- DaVinci Pro
- Smart Reader HD
- Merlin elite and HD
- Acrobat HD
You could always opt for one of these, depending on your eye health, given they cost less than the more advanced low vision aids, but ask yourselves this question. Would you rather have two to three low cost devices to use for different purposes and still require help, or pool in and get one device to conquer all your low vision problems and be more independent? Because the need to see clearly isn’t something that stops when you are in different places.
Choose a device that helps you make
the most of your vision irrespective of where you are and what you need to do, and