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Ask Slashdot: Building an Assistive Reading Device? 134

Posted by timothy
from the start-with-the-C3P0-and-subtract-parts dept.
RulerOf writes "A few years ago, my girlfriend's grandfather was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration. Ever since, he has had progressively more trouble with daily activities. While his wife and family are able to help him with most things, at the age of 88 and without many living friends left, he dearly misses the ability to read printed text. He was able to get by for some time with magnifying glasses and other basic aids but now even those do not help. Recently, a local clinic which specializes in treatment for low-sight and blind individuals made him aware of and showed him several assistive reading devices that successfully allowed him to read. He mentioned this to his family members, and when I was told about it, I thought that these devices sounded like they were not much more than a camera attached to an LCD monitor or television with a little bit of special software thrown into the mix." (Read on below for more.)
RulerOf continues: "Some investigation online turns up products such as these, and their prices are so prohibitively high ($2400-$3000) that the manufacturer won't even list them on their website. Furthermore, the effects that these devices can apply to the pictures they output look awfully similar to the effects filters built into many webcams, and the ability to zoom and pan a live view of the screen is something that I've done effortlessly for years on OS X, and that I know exists in many Linux desktop environments. My current plan is to try to build something like this with a used Mac Mini, a Logitech HD Webcam with a full-screen view of the camera always up, and a Magic Trackpad to control zoom level and screen position, plugged into a huge LCD TV that he already owns. Have any of you ever built something like this? Am I wrong in thinking that the ease of use would be comparable to the purpose-built devices when configured correctly? Is this something that might work better with a newer nettop device, a digital camera or camcorder, and Windows (where I'm skilled at automating things) or Linux at the core instead?"
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Ask Slashdot: Building an Assistive Reading Device?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2011 @07:52PM (#38054224)

    One of my work colleges is working on an identical project. You two should talk. Email me at jasonmac404 atsymbol gmail .... and I'll put you two in contact.

    • by RulerOf (975607)

      One of my work colleges is working on an identical project. You two should talk. Email me at jasonmac404 atsymbol gmail .... and I'll put you two in contact.

      Much appreciated! I'll keep on top of the comments here for the next few hours and then get in contact.

      • Well, if you want to replicate one of this solutions, all you need is a joystick, a PTZ (PTZ means Pan Tilt and Zoom) camera with at least 4x optical zoom, and a very cheap computer (atom will do) with a nice LCD display.

        You should be able to find a nice PTZ camera for well under 300 bucks.

        If you want, I can provide you with the source code to control a Pelco-D camera using a standard joystick in GNU/Linux, just email me: almafuerte (at) gmail (dot) com.

        Anyway, I think that's not the best idea. You are spen

        • A lot of what I read isn't in nor will ever be in digital. However I am impressed with Kiseido Digital's digitization of Go World and a few books, and with Slate and Shell's ebook offerings.
      • by SQLGuru (980662)

        My wife's granddad had an old computer. We went for a cheap solution. I pointed a cheap web cam down towards the desk. Added a second monitor. Put some "tap" lights to illuminate the area. And set the software to be really big.

        He's got one screen for his work (Excel, etc.) and the second monitor shows whatever is in view of the web cam. It only cost me about $30 to get the lights, web cam, and cheap second monitor.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I set one up. The lady who was my customer was very knowledgeable about some technology but had not thought of this particular use. Once I'd shown her the basics of it with a crappy camera and a mostly working 40" salvaged TV she had herself a reading desk built with a mount for a pricey high resolution camera and a then state of the art Hitachi 50" projection. I also built her a remote out of surplus aerospace push buttons, an aluminum box and tediously soldered connections to a second new remote for the H

    • Indeed you can set one up to an extent. The products you are referring to are known in general as CCTV's in the assistive technology/low vision community even though they don't necessarily involve a television anymore. The one thing to keep in mind is that the purpose built and sold products such as the ones you linked to are built with specific features such as contrast enhancement, color adjustment, (and more I'm sure I don't know of), that are effective in helping people with various types of visual diff
  • by sandhill (1873262) on Monday November 14, 2011 @07:54PM (#38054244) Homepage
    If the goal is to be able to read beloved old books that he already has etc, then sure, go for it. But if it's just the desire to be able to enjoy books, then the library available on Audible.com (and others), is fantastic. They're not your old 'books-on-tape' ... great selection, very good readers, and it's very satisfying to have someone read to you. If you've already got the computer and internet service, please check it out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by egranlund (1827406)

      Also, Librevox the free alternative - doesn't have nearly as large of a selection though.

    • by RulerOf (975607) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:01PM (#38054308)
      Audio books are a good alternative for certain, but when I brought up the idea, his desire is specifically to read printed material. I suspect that, when even assistive devices no longer cut it for him (if it gets to that point, of course) that audio books may be more amenable at that time.

      I'll bring it up again though, because it is still a very good point. Thanks!
      • by Jim Hall (2985)

        As another poster has mentioned, MD will eventually result in total loss of vision. So do encourage him to explore audio books.

        But I think I know where your girlfriend's grandfather's is coming from on the audio book topic. Not every book is released in audio format, so you're kind of tied to only those titles that have an audio version. The latest cool book may take months to get an audio version, if at all. Also note that magazines, product instructions, medicine labels, etc. do not have audio versions. S

      • Actually audio books might NOT be a good idea.
        I'm a voracious reader and can read quicker than most, but audio books are useless to me. My hearing is fair and without modern materials my glasses could double as deep sea/space craft widows.
        It depends on the how a persons brain works, some people learn and retain and focus better with the printed vs the spoken work.
        One professional (Doctor, plus other assorted degrees) learned to write VERY fast in coll
    • by hazem (472289)

      It's also worth checking the local library to see what they have. Mine has thousands of audiobooks (mostly on CD/mp3-cd) at the main branch and many many more through other branches in the system, plus free access to libraries on worldcat.

      I only ever have to buy the audiobooks I want to keep for myself.

      If you're on a budget, the library may be a better option than audible.com, especially with the DRM that doesn't allow use on anything but Windows (and probably Mac).

    • The sound quality on audible.com is not that great. There are many other sources of better audiobooks than audible.com.

  • If he's looking to purchase new books to read - what about a Kindle DX with the font size jacked all of the way up?

    • by RulerOf (975607)

      If he's looking to purchase new books to read - what about a Kindle DX with the font size jacked all of the way up?

      When I first started thinking about it, a tablet or an e-reader such as the kindle was my very first suggestion. The problem with it was that, on a 10" screen, he needs things zoomed so high that he may only be able to view a single sentence at a time. The camera/monitor approach preserves the dead-tree look and feel (and the UI, hehe) but adds the ability to enlarge the text.

      Wouldn't be a bad idea if there was a 24" kindle, though :)

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        If he's looking to purchase new books to read - what about a Kindle DX with the font size jacked all of the way up?

        When I first started thinking about it, a tablet or an e-reader such as the kindle was my very first suggestion. The problem with it was that, on a 10" screen, he needs things zoomed so high that he may only be able to view a single sentence at a time. The camera/monitor approach preserves the dead-tree look and feel (and the UI, hehe) but adds the ability to enlarge the text.

        Wouldn't be a bad idea if there was a 24" kindle, though :)

        How about the Kindle App on a PC plugged into a big monitor (where "big" is anywhere from a 22" to a 60" or larger LCD or Plasma TV)?

        Add a wireless keyboard and/or Mouse for control.

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          If he's looking to purchase new books to read - what about a Kindle DX with the font size jacked all of the way up?

          When I first started thinking about it, a tablet or an e-reader such as the kindle was my very first suggestion. The problem with it was that, on a 10" screen, he needs things zoomed so high that he may only be able to view a single sentence at a time. The camera/monitor approach preserves the dead-tree look and feel (and the UI, hehe) but adds the ability to enlarge the text.

          Wouldn't be a bad idea if there was a 24" kindle, though :)

          How about the Kindle App on a PC plugged into a big monitor (where "big" is anywhere from a 22" to a 60" or larger LCD or Plasma TV)?

          Add a wireless keyboard and/or Mouse for control.

          Oh, and one more Kindle suggestion:

          Depending on his tolerance for monotone computer generated speech, try the Kindle text-to-speech function to read books to him. Not nearly as good as a human voice with emotion and pacing that match the text, but I've used it to "read" some books on long car drives.

          • by RulerOf (975607)
            As far as e-books go, I actually like that suggestion. It may even work well with the magic trackpad (which I'm eyeballing as a way to eliminate a traditional keyboard from the equation) for things like page turning and zooming. I'll bring that up and see what they say.
        • I advise against plasma for this. The letters will burn in like hell if you torture the plasma like that.
          My 1 year old plasma burns in way faster than my old 20-odd year old TV.
        • Or, Kindle app (or any other e-book reader if you have epubs) on a smartphone which has TV out of some kind (A/V or mini HDMI or MHL), then the touch screen can be used to navigate pages.

      • by femto (459605)

        What about a head mounted display [wikipedia.org] or virtual reality goggles? These would allow a huge image to be formed, without the need for a bulky display. If you want to DIY, such a beast could probably be built with an ipod/kindle/... and a few lenses (from binoculars or a View-Master [wikipedia.org]?)

        Getting really funky, there also seem to be people experimenting with drawing images directly on the retina [wikipedia.org] of Macular Degeneration patients. Not recommended for DIY!

    • by Forbman (794277)

      probably still not big enough. Thus, displaying the magnified text on a full-size TV screen...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have an EyeClops, basically a toy microscope that hooks up to a TV. This is cheap but would let you get as close as you want to anything. Amazon Link [amazon.com]

    • by RulerOf (975607)

      I have an EyeClops, basically a toy microscope that hooks up to a TV. This is cheap but would let you get as close as you want to anything. Amazon Link [amazon.com]

      I went ahead and ordered one of these. While it doesn't solve the primary need as elegantly as what I'm looking for, at $40, it could be useful in a pinch. Thanks!

  • This may help..... (Score:4, Informative)

    by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:01PM (#38054310) Homepage Journal
    It might be worthwhile to post this over at makezine.com [makezine.com]. Nothing those crazy makers love more than a challenge. Good luck! Maybe some enterprising person can get something mass produced via kickstarter.com [slashdot.org]
    • by Stonent1 (594886)
      I knew someone who had Advanced Macular Degeneration and she had a device that was like what you said. It was a camera mounted facing down towards the table and it had a sliding platform where you could sit a book or paper on and slide around to read. This one interfaced with the computer monitor and she could split-screen the computer and the camera so she could easily work with printed documentation and office productivity apps.
  • You need to check out IRTI.net
    • by RulerOf (975607)
      That's the kind of product that I'm finding online, and their prices [irti.net] seem to be about the same as the ones I've already seen. The key point behind my post is that it seems that I can build something similar for significantly less money. And it would be a fun project :)
      • by Genda (560240)

        So is an iPad too small? If a plastic frame with a magnifying lens were constructed such that the light and camera from the iPad illuminated and recorded the book, and you could vary the magnification to display from a whole sentence to a word or two and just scan the iPad around over the book page (the plastic frame would flatten the page and keep the iPad at the appropriate distance for focus) would that be a clear, clean, workable solution for what, perhaps $40?

        Better yet, there is already a design for a

  • Lighthouse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LoudMusic (199347) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:12PM (#38054398)

    http://lighthouse-sf.org/ [lighthouse-sf.org]

    Surely his doctors have mentioned these people?

    • by RulerOf (975607)

      http://lighthouse-sf.org/ [lighthouse-sf.org]

      Surely his doctors have mentioned these people?

      Possibly, but I couldn't say for sure. Browsing their products appears to yield a rather impressive array of optical magnifiers. Do they happen to have anything more along the lines of what I'm talking about in the summary?

      • by LoudMusic (199347)

        I honestly don't know. But my grandmother (now 100 years old), used to swear by them. She uses some kind of video enlarger with a TV and used to have a PC with some outrageously over priced assistance software, but that's too difficult anymore. I believe she still uses their books on tape service, which used to be special format cassettes, but surely that's moved to solid state now.

  • This isn't reading, but for entertainment he should look at old time radio. Old Time Radio [archive.org]
     
    Thousands of marvellous radio plays as mp3's, no reading required.
     
    Just the thing for long trips in a car or commuting, too.
     
    Westerns, detective stories, comedies, it's all there. And it's free and legal, too.

  • classroom tech (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The big crazy right now in classrooms is document cameras (glorified webcams on stands with lights) you can get a basic model that should work just fine for about $300-$400, avermedia makes a pretty good one. Then just hook it to a TV, large screen or projector with a VGA cable. Plus when that time comes and you need to figure out what to do with the device when the time comes, just donate it to your local school (tax write off).

    • by RulerOf (975607)
      We went ahead and purchased a document camera (this model [amazon.com]) because it really seems like it'll do the job perfectly.

      I'm still investigating computer-based solutions, in the event that they perform better or that the document camera turns out not to provide quite what he needs. A very excellent suggestion, dearest AC :)
  • How about one of the new LED projectors and a pdf ebook? Granted you have to read off the wall, but it may be a relatively cheap workaround. Books on tape are an old standby also, I use them while commuting.
    • I kinda like the sound of that, also, since the projectors shine at the wall, not directly into the reader's eyes like a device would, it wouldn't hurt his eyes.

      Big-ass display, easy to set-up and operate (just paint a wall beige or whatever that droll colour is), and anyone in the family could operate. He could zoom onto whatever size he wanted, and it wouldn't be displayed in a disjointed fashion.

      Also, another thing, I have heard it's easier on the eyes to see farther up than close up, so he wouldn't have

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:25PM (#38054500)

    When my dad got macular degeneration, I got hold of an old laptop, put linux on it, and set it up so that it loaded fbreader on booting. My dad had never used a computer in his life, couldn't see the keyboard, and wasn't interested in learning how to use a PC. But I put sticky red rubber buttons on the keys he needed to navigate fbreader. After some experimentation, we figured out big white writing on a black background worked well, put a load of ebooks on it, and away he went. He found it very easy to use, and never needed to worry about how the computer worked. He used it a lot, and although he started listening to audio books too, he much preferred being able to read on screen. My dad was into science fiction, and we took up Baen Books' offer of free ebooks for the disabled (see http://www.webscription.net/t-disabled.aspx) so he didn't even have to pay for books.

    • For Sci-fi, I recommend 'Escape Pod'. It's a great podcast series with over 300 podcasts, with a new one appearing every week, and it's completely free.

  • What about an iPad or android tablet? They tend to have a "downward" facing camera and already have a screen. You could use it as a portable magnifier, for general use, as well as a reader. They have the capacity to do OCR on a book, and could present the text one word, or even one letter, at a time. I'm sure a book holder with a frame to support the tablet wouldn't be too hard to rig up - you could probably make it fold up and portable (fit inside a briefcase, say) with a little bit of thought.
    • by RulerOf (975607)
      So along those lines, I'm thinking of something like an iPad 2 in a fixed stand, probably with the home button covered up (prevent accidental presses). From there, mirror the display out to an Apple TV 2, attached to the LCD TV. Without using a system of mirrors though, the tablet would have to lay perfectly flat, but there's room in there for hardware hackery.

      The real question from there, I suppose, is, "What's the killer app that makes it work?"
    • iPhone, the iPhone 4 has an excellent macro mode. Build a sled for the iPhone, couple with custom written app that takes camera input and sends picture to TV via AppleTV. The sled would be hand-sized so very mobile, wireless and easy to scan by moving the hand. Zoom level could be regulated by pinching gestures on the upward facing screen. As an added bonus controls would be easy to use because of iOS assistive technologies.

      • The more I think about this the more I'm surprised this hasn't been done before. An iPhone based solution could replace several of the products on the linked page:
        - just iphone app with zooming display on screen for mobile reading of small print (eg. in stores)
        - small iPhone caddy with built in leds with output to TV for more mobile reading in house.
        - iPhone held in stationary reading post outputting to large attached monitor, with lots of illumination.

        You don't need the computer to do processing, basically

  • by audacity242 (324061) <audacity242@yaho ... inus threevowels> on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:37PM (#38054624) Homepage

    The long-term result of macular degeneration is that he will lose the ability to focus on anything in the center of his vision, and will eventually hit the point where he only has (blurry) peripheral vision. When this occurs, he will not be able to read at all. Any items which magnify text will be a very temporary solution for him.

    Focus on finding audio solutions that work, spend time researching them and then becoming familiar with using them, because anything you create now that magnifies text will be very quickly obsolete.

    • by nbauman (624611)

      The long-term result of macular degeneration is that he will lose the ability to focus on anything in the center of his vision, and will eventually hit the point where he only has (blurry) peripheral vision. When this occurs, he will not be able to read at all.

      That wasn't my impression. I thought they usually preserve peripheral vision. It is true that vascular problems in the retina can cause a lot of damage and even total blindness, but I don't know how common it is.

      Review Article
      Medical Progress
      Age-Related Macular Degeneration
      Rama D. Jager, M.D., William F. Mieler, M.D., and Joan W. Miller, M.D.
      N Engl J Med 2008; 358:2606-2617June 12, 2008

      Although most people with advanced age-related macular degeneration do not become completely blind, visual loss often marke

    • by westlake (615356)

      Focus on finding audio solutions that work, spend time researching them and then becoming familiar with using them, because anything you create now that magnifies text will be very quickly obsolete.

      The Library of Congress has been loaning audio books and players to the blind since 1931. The service is free, and the players are designed for the handicapped.

      He should also be asking his public library about local radio reading services.

      There is always something to be gained in looking at existing, successful, low-tech solutions to problems like these.

  • by synthespian (563437) on Monday November 14, 2011 @08:50PM (#38054742)

    Check this out:

    I just checked the facts now, and Ray Kurzweil (AI + future-tech guru/genius/entrepreneur/benefactor/cyborg ) has a whole company specializing in assistive reading technologies.

    K–NFB Reading Technology

    http://www.knfbreader.com/ [knfbreader.com]

    The original OCR reader for blind people he developed is presented here:

    http://www.knfbreader.com/products-classic.php [knfbreader.com]

    This product is no longer in development, because they have moved to using cell-phones (you just gotta love this cell-phone age we're in). BTW, don't waste your time looking at products made by people without the expertise in this field of AI and assistive technology. You need a real solution for a real problem...

    For reading and using the computer, advanced software exists (Windows platform - don't let anyone make you waste your time with open source, it's not for grandpa - yet). If he can identify elements in the screen and is able to locate where text is, he can just use something like TextAloud.

    As macular degeneration progresses, though, he will want to move into software specifically tailored for the blind. In fact, I would suggest getting acquainted with the following software before total blindness. JAWS is the major-league player in this category.

    http://www.freedomscientific.com/products/fs/jaws-product-page.asp [freedomscientific.com]

    I wish all the best for your girlfriend's grandfather. Tell him he's not the only in that situation and that there are solutions out there.

    I hope this helps.

    May you score many Internet Points points with your future father-in-law, too ;-)

    • by nbauman (624611)

      That's true, but the Kurtzweil and other reading machines are fairly expensive, $3,000 and up, I believe. JAWS is also fairly expensive. I think they mostly sell them to people who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.

      A lot of that cost is for tech support and development, which they do well, but here the poster is capable of providing his own tech support.

    • by xclr8r (658786)
      If you go the JAWS route there are different voice options under voice adjustment. The best I've seen used are the SAPI 5 voices. They have AUS, UK, and U.S.A english voices. Set the punctuation to read back "some" or "none", and adjust the rate of speech and you no longer have to listen to a robot or Stephen H.
  • Could get him a Kindle with audiobooks. Also, call Amazon and talk to a rep and ask to speak with someone there with experience in the blind using Kindles. It may be a small number of users, but they really need to support it, even if they can't read text books without getting into fights with the audiobook people. Or better yet, just an ipod shuffle. Good luck. The world can be quite an awful place for the blind, and they get shafted while other minority groups (of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion o
  • I used to work in the same building as these people. I even worked with a couple of them on different products.

    While I have not used/seen their products, they may offer something useful.

    http://www.gh-accessibility.com/ [gh-accessibility.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I used to work for these folks. Their products are quality, have a good warranty, and they have a 30 day return policy they honor well. Order one directly from them, if the product doesn't work well for your needs, just send it back (Shipping costs to return the item are on you.)

    Bierley Inc [bierley.com]

    The device is $198 and comes in two mag levels and there is a color model. Check out their website. I will also email you too.

    Their basic, entry level product:

    Bierley Monomouse [bierley.com]

  • The smartphone of his choice (iOS pretty definitely, Android probably) should apps available that will let him image some text, OCR it, and then either zoom in on it or speak it to him.

  • I know some who basically did this with a cheap digital camera that had a Camera to TV set cable. I think, from memory it was a Kodak Camera. Put the camera on a stand with a lot of lighting, and enough shielding that the lights used to illuminate the book are not going to interfere with someone with poor eyesight being able to see the TV screen clearly.
    That said, I also know several people with strong levels of visual impairment who have found the various iDevices to be game changers for them in the past
  • The general problem here is that parts of the visual field are missing in the affected person. There is no direct analogue to other experience, but it is somewhat like you have a lace curtain in front of your eyes, so that some areas of your vision are OK, some are poor quality, and some are missing.

    Ideally, what you want is something that warps the visual field around these areas, while preserving the missing content. To a person with negligible degeneration, the displayed image would look horribly dis

    • The "lace curtain" analogy is that the lace curtain is glued to your eyes - shifting your eyes does not affect the relative positioning of the curtain. To affect it you have to shift your head.

      That is the purpose in distorting the visual field to map around these 'holes' - so your eyes can pick up everything in front of them.

  • by Detaer (562863) on Monday November 14, 2011 @09:54PM (#38055118)
    Open source screen reader http://live.gnome.org/Orca [gnome.org] This package can be used to operate a computer for people who are totally blind, read content etc etc.
  • by mattack2 (1165421) on Monday November 14, 2011 @10:06PM (#38055178)

    You already mentioned Mac OS X for screen magnification, but maybe he can learn to use VoiceOver, which is also built in.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://bookshare.org

  • I know you said audio books were not your preferred solution but you should checkout the talking book program from the National Library Service, http://www.loc.gov/nls [loc.gov]. The materials and equipment are provided free of charge to US residents and citizens living abroad. Another good source of information is the daisy consortium, http://www.daisy.org./ [www.daisy.org] Daisy has developed standards and tools for accessibility. There are commercial products as well Humanware is probably the best known manufacturer but as I'm
    • by plover (150551) *

      I second the suggestion of audio books and also recommend the Daisy consortium. My grandmother-in-law has macular degeneration that has progressed from impaired to blind over the course of a couple of years, so last year I decided to read her an audiobook for a Christmas present (it was a local history book that wasn't present in the audiobook library.) There was a lot to learn, and it took a surprising amount of time and effort to get started and organized. Actually recording the book was only half the

  • AccessWorld Magazine (Score:4, Informative)

    by nbauman (624611) on Monday November 14, 2011 @10:52PM (#38055416) Homepage Journal

    Here's a magazine about assistive devices for the visually impaired that's having a special on-line Q&A event this very week:

    http://www.familyconnect.org/calendar.asp?EventID=2955 [familyconnect.org]

    Ask the AccessWorld Experts! Special Online Event November 14-18

    Dates: 11/14/2011 - 11/18/2011

    AccessWorld iconFamilyConnect and AccessWorld Magazine are excited to announce a special opportunity for families to interact directly with some of the foremost authorities on accessible technology—from cell phones to ebooks, screen readers, classroom adaptations, and more.

    Simply visit FamilyConnect's Ask the Experts blog anytime from November 14-18 (Monday-Friday) and leave your questions or concerns in the comments. Our team will be on hand to respond to your inquiries.

    AccessWorld's accessibility experts include:

            Lee Huffman
            Tara Annis
            Brad Hodges
            Janet Ingber
            Deborah Kendrick
            J.J. Meddaugh
            Ike Presley
            John Rempel

    This one-of-a-kind opportunity allows families to have their questions and concerns about assistive technology addressed by leading experts. Join us November 14-18 for this exciting online event!

    Contact: Lee Huffman

    E-Mail: accessworld@afb.net

    URL: http://www.familyconnect.org/experts [familyconnect.org]

    And here's AccessWorld:

    AccessWorld
    Technology and People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

    http://www.afb.org/aw/main.asp [afb.org]

    I knew some people at the American Foundation for the Blind. At that time, they had a research department of a couple of engineers creating assistive devices. You might contact the AFB or other blindness organizations and find an engineer to talk to. You might well find somebody who will be enthusiastic about your project.

  • I've had some success with scanning and OCR software on my iPhone... http://www.creaceed.com/prizmo/iphone/ [creaceed.com]
  • Have you looked at the Intel Reader [careinnovations.com]? It's a fairly affordable OCR/TTS handheld device with a custom camera and strobe, targeted to blind, low-vision, and dyslexic users. It also comes with a transforming briefcase that turns into a docking station for capturing entire books. I had the privelidge of working on the team that developed it and would be happy to answer any questions about it offline.
  • Off-topic I know, but some forms of macular degeneration respond really well to eating lots of spinach and similar leafy vegetables: http://www.macular.org/nutrition/index.html [macular.org]

    This may or may not work, but eating spinach isn't a hard thing to try and has little if any downside.

  • Slashdot just ate my original comment...

    Worth starting with a Linux distro that's aimed at visually impaired users, such as Vinux: http://wiki.vinuxproject.org/index.php?title=Main_Page [vinuxproject.org] - Ubuntu 10.04 based, and includes full screen magnification that might 'just work' if you point a webcam at a paper book. Also this would support Chrome which is a good way to use the Amazon Cloud Reader, for Kindle ebooks (easier than using a Windows VM).

    The Vinux community can also probably help in other ways with your

  • I agree with the poster upthread that JAWS is powerful (and Kurzweil has been a standard for years), but in my experience it is also pretty complicated for a novice user.

    Have a look at what the Trace R&D Center [wisc.edu] has to offer on the topic. In addition to developing accessibility standards and technology, they are an amazing resource for information on AT in general. They used to have a very good "information and referral" service, though I'm not sure if that's part of their mission now.

    A couple of othe

  • I use a Kindle 2 daily. I don't want the newer models because of the tactual keyboard on the Kindle 2 is quite helpful for my purposes, and I would imagine for your Dad as well. My Kindle 2 reads to me while I am driving to work, and I simply plug it into the car's audio via a cassette or other adaptor. I also placed two small triangular pieces of tape on the lower part of the keyboard so I can feel where I need to press (two keys simultaneously) on the bubble style keyboard to start and stop the audio with
  • I agree that audio is probably a better long-term solution for someone with MD. But to the extent that magnification and enhanced contrast help, the devices you've found can be useful as well. To help you understand the sticker shock of $3000 for a combination of what is basically off-the-shelf consumer technology, you have to understand that these devices are developed and sold as medical devices, and this is how our medical economy operates.

    Detailing how simple consumer technology can cost $3000 when pa

  • by illogic (52099)

    My first gen iPad doesn't have a camera so I can't attest to resolution or field of view, but using my iPhone's camera it only needs to be about a foot from a letter size page to capture the page completely.

    You could rig up a stand which held an iPad a reasonable distance from the reading material, maybe with a light for the source material, maybe with a periscope-like arrangement of mirrors.

    Not sure if the pinch-to-zoom gesture would be a challenge, but hardware-wise a tablet with a decent camera seems lik

  • My Grandfather has a year up on yours but.....

    I thought exactly the same thing as you did. That one could just strap together a web came or what have you, and LCD monitor etc. And you sure can. But here where the difference lies. For $3000 you get a drastically simplified that an 80+ year old can handle. It has buttons that they can actually feel, remember, they can't see the little camera buttons. They get some one to call when they have problems, that isn't you. And chances are given his age, he may ha

  • I have to make a big subject change because I just heard this Johns Hopkins podcast about Lucentis being used to stop and somewhat regress MD. This may be equally useful knowledge to having aids: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/audio/podcasts/ [hopkinsmedicine.org] You have to scroll down to the bottom of the page and look for Lucentis to find it. There's a power point presentation on the subject, too.

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