I’ve not found any apps with all the features many users who have low vision will need. For example: contrast adjustment, foreground and background colour adjustment and white on black/black on white options are features that I haven’t been able to find in any magnification apps.
Challenges for users requiring magnification and considering utilising an “i” device may include;
- Holding the device steady, finding or creating a suitable stand for stability
- issues with using a camera for magnification that isn’t centrally located in the device – something to be aware of now with the iPhone or iPod Touch, but being a small device it’s fairly easy to adjust to having an off centre camera.
I considered adding a rating for each of the apps, but after some discussion with colleagues, decided against the idea. It’s better for each individual (teacher or user) to focus on creating a list of features that they require a magnification app to have that will meet their visual needs, then search for an app that best meets that criteria.
My personal criteria are;
- Inbuilt illumination option
- easy zoom functionality, either pinch or slider
- full screen magnification
- quick auto focus when moving across text
My preferred magnification apps that most closely meet my criteria are;
Easy Reader with LED $1.19 (also compatible with iPad2)
Magnifying Glass with light $1.19 (or free with advertising)
I’d be very interested to hear feedback and also suggestions for additional magnification apps to consider.
Now that the new iPad 2 is available and it includes a built in camera, I’m looking forward to trialling more magnification apps on a larger screen, (I’m hoping to receive a iPad2 very soon) the larger screen format of the iPad, may mean that functional magnification options are available to more people requiring higher levels of magnification, at a fraction of the price of a traditional CCTV (Close Circuit Television). It’s possible to purchase an iPad and magnification apps for around $500 rather than the $5000 that many CCTVs are priced at. The iPad 2 device’s true portability and multifunctional capabilities through utilising task oriented apps will add an interesting addition to the list of possible tools (SETT process)* we can consider to provide access to print based (and digital texts) materials for people who have a vision impairment.
The ZoomReader app from Ai Squared was showcased at ATIA conference earlier this year, unfortunately it still isn’t available to purchase through iTunes, I’m looking forward to trialling the app once it is released. Here’s some information about the app from AI Squared.
“ZoomReader will be a combination video magnifier and OCR app. It uses the built-in camera on an iPhone or iPod Touch to zoom in on printed materials, apply color filters, and to take a picture of something and have the text in that image read out loud…At $19.99, it’s a very competitive and affordable price point for a mobile application that does real time screen magnification, OCR reading of images, plus voice recognition.”
You Tube video of ZoomReader in action.
I’m now working on trialling and evaluating apps that may be useful for enhancing distance vision; many individuals who have low vision rely on using a monocular telescope (sometimes not very “cool” looking) to give them visual access to things in the distance such as signs. There are some camera apps that may assist, here are a couple;
10 X camera tools $1.19
Useful features include; Add text notes to photos, Snap multiple photos with continuous tapping, Date/time, file size, resolution, and GPS Tag location, Black & White option, live zoom magnification on screen using slider.
Camera Zoom $1.19
Useful features include; up to 5 X live magnification on screen with digital zoom slider on screen, anti hand shake
Please share any tips or apps you’ve tried and found useful in enhancing distance visual access.
* More information about the SETT process
iPad 2 Update 31/5/2011
Evaluation of iPad2 as a Low Vision Aid, using magnification apps
I finally received my iPad2 and held it in my hands last week after quite a protracted wait between ordering and actually receiving it, I’ve been able to use it all weekend to find out if it lives up to my expectations!
The reasons I decided to purchase an iPad 2 (I already have an original iPad) was to have access all the features of the original iPad – PLUS the additional features of:
• front and rear facing cameras
• faster operating speed – according to Macworld May 2011 1.6 X faster than the iPad, and 1.9 X faster than the iPhone 4
• lighter weight
• ability to “mirror” all apps (particularly handy for teaching and training)
• ability to lock screen rotation
I was particularly keen to evaluate the iPad 2 for use as a low vision aid. Even though I had read some reviews describing the iPad 2 cameras as poor – I really wanted to find out for myself. http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/03/just-how-bad-is-the-ipad-2-camera/
One of the first problems I encountered, after a lot of searching was… No LED light??? Therefore I wasn’t able to activate the additional lighting on any of the magnification apps I tried. Using magnification apps in anything but a well lit area, or bright sunlight achieved very poor results. Although there is an illumination sensor on the rear of the iPad2, magnification in less than perfect lighting conditions really requires additional illumination – which unfortunately isn’t available in the iPad 2.
The second problem I encountered was the image quality, blurry, grainy, and increasing the magnification makes the image even more blurry and unreadable. After looking into the specifications of the iPad2 camera, as compared to the iPhone 4 the reason for the poor image seems to be the difference in the camera specifications and the display resolution.
iPad2 rear-facing camera less than one megapixel 0.92 front facing camera VGA up to 30 frames per second VGA-quality still camera (640×480)
backlit sensor to give better low light performance. Display – 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi)
iPhone 4 rear facing camera 5 megapixels. (iPhone 3Gs has 3 megapixel camera)LED flash, backlit sensor to give better low light performance. Front facing camera has VGA-quality photos and video at up to 30 frames per second Display: 960-by-640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi
http://ipod.about.com/od/ipadcomparisons/a/ipad-iphone-3gs-ipod-touch.htm has a useful comparison chart of the specifications of the iPad2, iPhone4 and iPod Touch
http://digitalphotobuzz.com/ipad-2-camera-review-compared-to-iphone-4 “how does the actual image quality of the iPad measure against the iPhone 4′s camera? Unfortunately its a disappointment, I don’t think the iPad is going to replace the 8×10 viewcamera any time soon. Especially in low light situations. the images taken on the iPad 2 are pretty bad. The noise that you get makes low light images look splotchy and almost have an appearance of a watercolor image”
Unfortunately, I found when using magnification apps that the quality of the iPad 2 camera isn’t able produce images of good quality, contrast or clarity. I had hoped that the larger screen of the iPad2 compared to the iPhone 4 would result in improved and enhanced image and magnification options for low vision users, instead the larger screen makes the poor image quality more apparent as magnification increases. The magnification apps I trialled that worked on the iPad2 hadn’t been modified or adjusted to make full use of the iPad 2 larger screen size. The apps launched in a small size (similar to an iPhone 4 screen size) and to obtain a whole screen view, I had to activate the 2X button, which digitally enlarged the view to the whole iPad 2 screen, but also enlarged the “white noise” blur and made the image very grainy.
Positioning the iPad 2 and stands
I haven’t had the opportunity to trial any stands as yet, however looking at the reviews there are several available which may suit magnification apps. I’m not sure if these stands will hold the iPad 2 in an appropriate horizontal position to facilitate using magnification apps, and given, in my opinion the poor quality of image quality when using magnification apps, I’m not sure it would be worthwhile purchasing a stand for this purpose alone.
Jadu Skadoosh approx USD $69.99? adjustable, portrait and landscape mode www.jadu-industries.com
Slide portable iPad 2 stand http://www.expansys.com.au/just-mobile-slide-stand-for-apple-ipad-208325/ approx $40 AUD adjustable, portrait and landscape mode
Summing up – Unless the next version of the iPad camera is vastly improved, it’s unlikely that the iPad will be a viable option for magnification for people who have low vision.
If one of the features important to you is good magnification of text, or small objects you may find the iPad 2 is not up to the task – the iPhone 4 performs better than the iPad 2 due to:
• 5 megapixel camera in the iPhone 4 as compared to less than 1 megapixel camera in the iPad 2
• image quality when using the whole screen of iPad 2 is poor contrast and lacks clarity when increasing magnification levels
• inbuilt LED illumination available in the iPhone 4, absent in iPad 2
• smaller size makes it easier to hold the iPhone 4 steady to obtain the best possible picture.
• Smaller size makes the iPhone 4 easier to hold, and operate controls, pinch – zoom or slider magnification controls as compared to the larger, and heavier iPad2
I imagine the camera quality in the iPad 2 may mean that magnification and OCR apps such as ZoomReader may not ever become available for this device.