Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Do It Yourself Video Magnifier

There are many devices to help the visually impaired. Some are really good and others not so much. Some of the best are quite expensive. Of these are the video magnifiers that have a combination camera and monitor. The camera points down at what is to be read and projects it to the monitor. Well, I've built my own and saved well over $1,000.

First, here is what you can buy on the market now. They range in price from $1,500 to $3,100.

Here is what I put together.

I've been using and love the iPad right at launch a few years ago and have bragged about how it allows me to read even though I have a vision disability. Now I'm using the iPad and it's camera and taking it to a new level. All I had to find was a stand that could hold the iPad above the table so the camera could view a book, newspaper or whatever small print item I needed to read.
What got me thinking about building my own device came about when I discovered some software for the iPad that looked almost identical to the software on a video magnifier machine. This software was about $30.00 but got me thinking. I then searched for other software and found loads of them and many under $10.00. I then had to find the tablet stand and that took a while. I'm a big person so I just searched and searched.
Parts List and Prices
iPad. $499. New
Arkon Tablet Stand. $38.23
VGA cable. $8.64VGA to iPad 3 connector. $29.95

I looked at many iPad apps for this and have settled upon Vision Assist because it has some nice features beyond what the camera and it's zoom capabilities. Vision Assist not only has zoom but brightness, reverse text and can even change the background to yellow with black or blue text. These are common capabilities found low vision magnifying viewers. Vision Assist works on the iPhone too so you can even carry this with you for reading menus in restaurants, theatre programs, etc. Vision Assist costs $5.99.
There are a few other tablet stands out there. I've started with the Arkon but might evolve to one that puts the tablet a little higher.

Arkon Table Stand for 10" Tablet
VGA to iPad 3 Connector. $18.40 from Amazon. NOTE: for iPad 3. 
6 ft. High Resolution Monitor VGA, Male to Male cable.

For the latest iPads, there is a "Lightening" to VGA or "Lightening" to HDMI connector.
With a newer TV, you could  use an Apple iPad to HDMI adapter and an HDMI cable.

I've found 2 other uses for this device. I recently did a comparison of Android and iOS phones and used my device to project the phones to a screen. Instead of a TV I connected the iPad to a projector. Participants were as curious about my home made device as they were with the phones. I can change to scanning software on the iPad and take a picture of a document and convert it to a PDF for e-mailing or faxing right from the iPad. No need for a FAX machine or copier.

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