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Ask Slashdot: Best Webcam To Augment Impaired Vision? 63

Posted by timothy
from the tickle-me-elmo-via-usb dept.
mynamestolen writes "In order to read paper-based books many visually impaired people want to attach a webcam to a computer and attach the computer to a TV. Some Electronic Magnifiers are purpose-built to provide a similar solution. Different organisations around the world (such as in the UK) have help pages. But I have not been able to find a guide to set up my own system. So I'm asking Slashdot readers how to go about it. What is the best camera to use if I want to hold the camera in my hand and point it at book or magazine? What parameters should I adjust, either in the software or on the camera? Depth of view, refresh rates, contrast, color balance and resolution might be key problems. My system is Linux and getting drivers for a good camera might also be a problem."
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Ask Slashdot: Best Webcam To Augment Impaired Vision?

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  • why webcam? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @02:26PM (#42659307)

    I'm mystified why it has to be a webcam, other than the joy of complexity.

    I am personally involved in two "scenes" where other participants a couple decades grayer than myself need similar tech and both use plain ole cameras hooked up to TVs.

    I can easily solder 0402 SMD by hand (I kid you not, and I've assembled working N5AC microwave oscillator kits to prove it.. the main vco inductor is a 0402 as are a bunch of the bypass caps. Also I know several model machinists (of the homemade steam engine variety) who use toolpost mounted microscopes to see little stuff, also some of them are pretty young, like the guys trying to machine a research medical adapter between a hypo needle and some medical research "thing".

    Anyway the killer for hand/eye coordination is latency. A simple camcorder is fast enough, a webcam no freaking way. Also the "boot time" of a camcorder is faster than any PC, not to mention "application launch". No software updates, no viruses (other than the ones you're looking at under the microscope LOL).

    I do know that one huge user of "webcam glued to gear" is medical examiners / pathologists because its easier to import CSI style evidence into a report edited on a computer if you use a webcam. Otherwise stay away from webcams !

  • by AntEater (16627) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @04:55PM (#42661017) Homepage

    There are some issues here that you're not addressing and most of them are economic. I have a family member that is legally blind and can only read with massive magnification. These CCD units are great but they cost thousands of dollars. Admittedly, it's a limited market but the manufacturers price the units assuming that some state or federal agency will be buying them - not the end user. They are dead simple with today's technology but still are priced like they're wired with gold circuits. If someone can find a supporting government or non-profit agency to help them, then they're good to go. Otherwise, they need to cough up a big chunk of cash which isn't easy for someone with very limited financial resources, as most visually impaired individuals tend to be.

    Ebooks are expensive. Large print books are expensive and very, very limited in availability. Traditional lense magnifiers often do not provide adequate magnification or do not address the visual difficulty sufficiently.

    When I was first looking at purchasing one of these units I was seriously outraged at the prices charged for a system that has less than $100 worth of hardware. They are essentially little more than a simple flat panel monitor, web camera, LED light and some light image processing software (invert, color masks, etc) on a stand that allows the book to slide around. I would absolutely *LOVE* to see someone come up with a good system for putting a webcam and small system together for reading - it would be great to open up the opportunities for people without the means or assistance to get a reader and, almost as wonderful, would be to put the screws to these companies that are charging such a ridiculous markup on the hardware. Unfortunately, the quality of web cameras isn't that hot but maybe there are some exceptions. I wonder if this could make for a cool Raspberry Pi project.

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