VisionAssist is an iOS app from Slinkyware that converts the camera and screen on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch into a portable electronic magnifier similar to Enhanced Vision’s Pebble and Amigo CCTVs.
The app is designed to help persons with visual impairments, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, to read text -- such as a menu in a dimly lit restaurant -- more easily.
Costing just $5.99, VisionAssist represents a new magnification solution far less expensive than dedicated electronic magnifiers. It also enfolds vital assistive technology into mobile devices popular among the blind, eliminating the need to carry a separate magnifier.
VisionAssist Key Features & Common Uses
VisionAssist leverages the iOS platform in several ways. For example, you can use the flash on the iPhone 4 or 4S to illuminate and view objects in the dark. VisionAssist on an iPad can make newspapers and road maps easier to read. And you can also use Apple TV to wirelessly project images onto a big screen TV.
VisionAssist features include:
- Adjustable magnification up to 5x
- Autofocus to sharpen image clarity
- Color video for viewing photos and magazines
- Adjustable brightness and high-contrast color schemes: white on black, black on white, black on yellow, and blue on yellow
- Smart text advanced algorithms highlight and enhance text on uneven surfaces such as newspapers and books
- "Freeze frame" feature for image capture, e.g. a phone number to jot down at your desk
- Extra-large controls for easy use Illuminate objects in the dark using the LED flash -- available only on iPhone 4 and 4S.
Note: Support for VoiceOver screen reader is in development.
Common uses for VisionAssist include:
- Read prescription labels
- Read ingredients on food labels -- at home & at the store
- Check prices and receipts
- Read newspapers
- Do crossword puzzles
- Find numbers in the phone book
- View photos.
To get VisionAssist from the App Store, follow these steps:
- Press the App Store icon on the Home screen of your iOS device.
- Once the App Store loads, tap the "Search" icon at the bottom of the screen.
- Touch the search box to access the keypad, type "VisionAssist," and press "Search."
- Tap the Price button at the top of the screen and then tap "Buy Now."
- You may need an Apple ID and credit card number.
- VisionAssist loads automatically. It's icon will shortly on your Home screen.
Once installed, tap the VisionAssist icon on your Home screen.
Your iOS screen immediately opens like a rectangular magnifying glass. To the right and left of the viewing area are vertical slide controls to adjust magnification and brightness respectively.
Position the screen over text or images you wish to view.
Use the slide controls to adjust magnification and brightness.
Press the circular arrow button beside the brightness control at the bottom of the screen to cycle through the view settings. VisionAssist has four: color video, B&W video, Highlight (with four contrast options), and Smart Text.
Press the gear icon atop the magnification slide control to change settings, including Highlight contrast options.
Press the Pause button beside the magnification control at the bottom of the screen to freeze an image.
Press the "?" icon atop the brightness slide control to access online help.
Pros, Cons, & Bottom Line
- Price: $5.99 for electronic magnification is one of the best deals in assistive technology
- Efficiency: VisionAssist, like DAISY book and GPS apps, lightens your load by moving more solutions to your iOS device
- Robust: Offers all functions found in portable and desktop video magnifiers, e.g. color schemes and "freeze" frame
- Easy to Use: App installs automatically and has simple layout, intuitive controls, and well-organized online help.
- Learning Curve: App is tricky at first as camera angle forces off-center screen positioning
- Magnification: 5x magnification is less than that of dedicated magnifiers and may be insufficient for some users
- Image Resolution: Cameras on some devices -- including the iPod touch -- cannot yet match the quality of viewing found on dedicated magnifiers such as the Pebble.
Bottom Line: VisionAssist is a very impressive app that, over time, could make portable electronic magnifiers obsolete. I did my testing with an iPod touch. Even though the resolution is higher on the iPhone and iPad, the convenience, functionality, and price represent a new paradigm of value in the world of magnification aids.