Powerful and portable magnification is essential technology for persons with visual impairments.
The ability to read text anywhere -- whether it’s bills, newspapers, prescriptions, recipes, subway maps, or on airport monitors -- is a crucial component of independent living.
Traditional options range from glass lenses to desktop video magnifiers that can cost $2,500 or more. In between, are handheld CCTVs -- such as Enhanced Vision's Pebble -- that use video cameras to enlarge text and images.
The popularity of Apple's iPhone and iPad among blind and visually impaired users has led to a third option: magnification apps that use the iOS device's built-in camera and processor to provide on-the-spot enlarging.
SightTech Makes Any Text Accessible to Low-Vision iOS Users
The EyeSight app from SightTech was developed specifically to leverage the high-resolution Retina display in the iPad 3.
Using simple gestures, users can instantly magnify text or images up to 12 times and toggle through six color and contrast settings to optimize their reading environment.
Set on a stand, an iPad running EyeSight can replace desktop video magnifiers costing thousands more. An iOS device connected to a High Definition Media Interface (HDMI) TV can also provide 100x magnification.
I downloaded EyeSight onto an iPod touch and used it to view bank statements, photos, and my computer screen. Despite reduced image clarity one would have on an iPad or iPhone 4S, I found it intuitive and efficient to use.
EyeSight App Download & Orientation
EyeSight, version 1.0.5, costs $29.99. The 7.2 MB file downloads quickly from the App Store. It requires iOS 5.0 and works on iPhone 3GS, 4, and 4S; iPod touch (3rd and 4th generation), and iPad 3.
Once installed, tap the EyeSight icon on the home screen to access the app's main menu.
EyeSight has a simple layout:
- Press the "Start" button in the lower right corner to turn on magnification
- Press "Settings" in the lower left corner to turn your device's camera flash (optimal for low-light viewing) on or off
- Press "User Guide" for a quick tutorial on EyeSight's features.
EyeSight offers six color contrast combinations you can tap through:
- Normal (full color)
- Enhanced Positive
- Enhanced Negative
- Yellow on Blue
- Yellow on Black
- Blue on White
You can tap the EyeSight icon in the lower right corner at any time to return to the app's main menu.
Use EyeSight with iOS Gestures
EyeSight responds to common tap and flick gestures programmed into iOS touch screens.
To increase magnification, use the reverse-pinch gesture.
To toggle through the six different color settings, use the single-finger, single-tap gesture.
To capture the current image, use the two-finger, double-tap gesture. Screen captures can be emailed or stored as image files in your iPhoto library.
EyeSight remembers and returns to the last settings you used.
Pros, Cons, & Bottom Line
- Easy to download; easy to use; provides immediate value
- A great value for the money, provided one owns or has access to an iPad 3
- Versatile--works as a handheld, on an iPad stand, or connected to an HDMI TV screen.
- Less expensive magnifier apps, e.g. VisionAssist, are available
- While convenient to iOS users, hand gestures are often not as consistent as CCTV controls.
EyeSight provides low-vision iPad users with immediate value. Though the optics employed may have less resolution compared to some portable CCTVs -- such as the Optelec Compact 5 HD -- this app clearly shows what magnification technology is evolving into.