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Ask Slashdot: Building an Assistive Reading Device? 134

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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  • 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.

No extensible language will be universal. -- T. Cheatham