Electronic magnifying glasses are set to help people who suffer with poor sight due to macular degeneration, diabetes or other diseases.
These devises have many advantages over traditional magnifying glasses such as built-in illumination and the ability to enlarge print from either nearby or distant objects. Also, using special electronics, they can display high-contrast images which makes them easier to read.
“Optical devices can’t increase the contrast like these devices,” said Lighthouse International’s chief of low-vision programs, Dr. Bruce P. Rosenthal. “Loss in contrast causes as many problems as loss of visual acuity,” he said.
The electronics in these devises can make black print darker and even switch black lettering on a white background to white lettering on a black background, which is preferred by some people who suffer from macular degeneration.
Supermarket shopping is one activity that can be particularly difficult for the visually impaired. These devices could help them get out and about and maintain a feeling of independence and self-sufficiency.
“One of the concerns we have in working with the visually impaired is depression,” he said. When people feel they can complete everyday activities just like everyone else, he added, “the more they can cope and feel that their lives are no different than others,” said Dr, Rosenthal.
The devices do have a predictable drawback however, cost. They are priced at around $700 to $1300 which is a lot more than the traditional magnifying glass, plus most private insurance plans and Medicare will not cover them.
Despite the cost, adoption of the technology could still be high as it has the potential to make a vast improvement to their quality of life of many people. It may enable some to improve their education or even return to work.
One of the devices is called the Quicklook Focus ($995). It has a single camera that focuses automatically at the touch of a button and weighs 8.8 ounces (250g). It has a 4.3″ screen and magnification starts at three times the original size. The battery runs for four and a half hours at full power, seven at reduced brightness. It should be available mid-June at www.freedomvision.net.
Another device is called the SenseView Duo ($1,299). It weighs 7.8 ounces (221g) and has two cameras – one for close-up reading like a food label or a book and one for distant objects over eight feet away like a classroom blackboard. Like the Quicklook Focus, it also has a 4.3″ LCD screen but it can also take up to 20 photos, allowing you to casually browse a shot of a railway timetable for example, scanning up, down, left and right to read all the information. The battery runs for 5 hours. It should be available at the end of this month from www.gwmicro.com
Photo credit: The New York Times