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Video Magnification System for Seniors?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the reading-the-fine-print dept.

Displays 35

c4tp's friend asks: "Recently my Mother informed me that my grandmother's 80th birthday is approaching. She suffers from glaucoma and it is rather hard to read small text for her. The consensus with our family is to buy her a video magnification device, but the ones I found online were at the minimum of $500 (US), a bit steep for me (and my family). So what I am asking basically, is there a way to build/assemble the parts these retail devices use for a cheaper price?"

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Display on a mac... (1)

addaon (41825) | more than 11 years ago | (#5827667)


Brazil (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 11 years ago | (#5827738)

go rent brazil, directed by terry gilliam, one of they monty python guys. very good movie. see those itsy bitsy monitors they have? infront of them is one of those flat magenfying glass things that come in those kid's science kits. they're plastic and have concentric circles. you commonly see them in the rear window of RV's.... you could probably pick one up for a cool $20 at the RV store that comes in a 25" size.

Re:Brazil (1)

Bourbon Man (76846) | more than 11 years ago | (#5827956)

Dunno about RV use, but it's called a Fresnel lens, most common use I've seen is in overhead transparency projectors

Re:Brazil (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828242)

here's a link that gives a pretty good explination for them. they use in the reverse application that the ask slashdotter would use them for. -rear-view-lens.htm

p.s. i love your username, what's the story behind it?

Built In (0, Offtopic)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 11 years ago | (#5827745)

I'm sure folks from the Dark Side will chime in if it's possible in Windows, but for sure Mac OS X and 9 have the capability to magnify text under the mouse. OS 9 required an addition from the CD, IIRC; OS X lists the ability as just another system preference. This is all in addition to text-to-speech abilities built in to the system, both in 9 and X, which is one thing I don't think Windows includes.

So, once again, buy a Mac.

Re:Built In (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5829209)

First of all fuckhead, the "ask slashdot" question was not referring to reading text on a computer screen. They wanted a cheap video setup that could easily magnify text in print, like food ingredients on a box or the newspaper, and display it on a television set.

Second, press windows key+u and you call up the accessibilty options for the OS. This allows you to turn on/off the on-screen magnifier, text-to-speech and/or the on-screen keyboard. I don't believe the keybaord shortcut works in Windows 95 but I know there are control panel options for it. Microsoft has been putting accesibility options in Windows for years, no extra crap to load like in OS 9.

So, once again, buy a PC and skip the candy coated rap coming from Cupertino.

Re:Built In (1)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 11 years ago | (#5829602)

No, just keep your PC.

Windows Key + U

Choose "Magnifier" for magnification
Choose "Narrator" for audio

Or just turn on the high-contrast, large font theme.

Windows has had accessibility features like a magnifier and high constrast since 1995. Apple is just catching up.

Sorry, Apple zealot.

Change the display font size? (1)

dacarr (562277) | more than 11 years ago | (#5827794)

Is it not an option to change the display font size? I'd think that would be the most optimal course of action here.

Re:Change the display font size? (2, Insightful)

cybermace5 (446439) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828000)

Uh...this has nothing to do with a computer. This is for taking video of something small, like the ingredients list on the side of a Coke can, and projecting it on a monitor so Grandma can make it out.

To answer the question: Yes. You can find NTSC video camera modules in the electronic surplus catalogs, many of them for well under $100. Couple that with a TV screen and you're good. For book reading, build a little wood-and-metal stand, or hack a one of those swingarm lamps/magnifiers (take out the big lens, fix the camera in the center, leave the circular fluorescent light).

Only thing you need to pay attention to is the actual camera lens. Ideal distance is going to be about 1ft to infinity.

If you're in XP.. (0, Offtopic)

delus10n0 (524126) | more than 11 years ago | (#5827872)

WindowsKey+U, Start the Magnifier. Bam.

Re:If you're in XP.. (1)

Minn_Kota_Marine (621197) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828084)

Damn, you beat me to it. It also has the narrator to if you have really bad eyes.

Re:If you're in XP.. (1)

delus10n0 (524126) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828469)

I just totally realized that this could be asking about non-computer magnification. I'm such a geek.

If this isn't for the computer, then why not just use a plain old magnifying glass, or one of the larger "lenses", like the kind you melt GI Joes and ants with. You know the ones!

Seems to be more efficient than a powered tv/camera type setup.

Re:If you're in XP.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5829566)

Wow, thanks for whoever modded me as "Offtopic". My information certainly was that!


c4tp's friend (658237) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828012)

What I meant was say you take a piece of paper, maybe the daily paper, and you put it under this device, the device blows up your paper, onto a television screen, so you can see the writing more clearly. I did not mean enlarging things on computer screens.


Gudlyf (544445) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828506)

Ah...that's what I thought. Like I said below, have you thought of using a cheap overhead projector (like this one [] )? I've seen them on Ebay for under $50.

My wife's grandmother had issues with her hearing, so we started to send her faxes instead of calling her. If her eyesight started to fail, we could put transparencies into her fax machine and set her up with a small overhead projector in a back room. When she had a hard time reading the fax, she'd just put it on the Dukane in the back room to read it off the wall, which was plenty big for her to read. This would even work with single-page documents, where she could feed them into the fax as a copier, which would put the text on the transparency. This of course wouldn't work so well for books and newspapers.


David_Bloom (578245) | more than 11 years ago | (#5829142)

Overheads are expensive to run. The bulbs only last about 75 hours and cost about 25-40 bucks. I'm not sure about the practicality of this solution.


Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5829727)

Craft places like Micheal's sell projectors that are designed to take an ordinary sheet of paper and project it onto a wall (often used for tracing out designs onto walls)

They don't use pricey bulbs, and are pretty cheap to buy. You don't have to use transparancies... these work with regular paper.

Worth looking into for a cheap solution, although you have to have the room pretty dark for it to work well.

Another idea is to mount a camcorder or cheap video camera (see with a zoom lens to point down at the page you wish to magnify, and then just run the video to a big TV if you have one.


bryanthompson (627923) | more than 11 years ago | (#5829674)

In our distance learning classes we have an 'elmo' that looks like an overhead, but is basically a webcam on a stick overlooking the overhead area... you can put worksheets under it or whatever, and it shows up on the computer screen. I can't imagine it being very hard to build with a webcam and an svideo connection.

Great new Karma whoring tactic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5830434)

Bravo, nicely executed! You posted a stupidly vague question to Ask Slashdot, which accepts darn near everything, and then posted an "Informative" comment clarifying your question. Way to go!

Clarification...? (1)

Gudlyf (544445) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828025)

Folks, I believe the original poster is looking for a device that will enlarge text of books and print, not emails and online text, but I could be wrong.

He's saying that a $500 device is too costly, which I believe would rule out a decent PC and scanner that's rigged to be easy enough for a non-techie-type to operate.

The first thing that came to mind was some sort of cheap overhead projector (not the expensive types that take video-in, but the ones that take transparencies and such). She could then project what she wants to read onto the wall. I dunno, just a thought.

I got one for you to check out... (1, Funny)

dotgod (567913) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828051)

Here's a device [] for you. It's low-priced AND easy to use.

Re:I got one for you to check out... (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 11 years ago | (#5831140)

Why's this moderated as Troll? It's actually on topic compared to the Windows vs Mac thread above, and more useful.

Re:I got one for you to check out... (1)

standsolid (619377) | more than 11 years ago | (#5832173)

This is not a troll -- this is acctually insightful (well...) or funny. this is acctually on-topic. (where did my mod points go :( )

I don't think he wants it for an OS... (3, Informative)

r_naked (150044) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828053)

If I read the question correctly ... I think he is looking for some kind of camera / monitor setup that can be used to project / magnify on the monitor.... If that is the case I doubt he is going to find one for less than $500.00.

First you need a Camera [] .
Then you need an Arm [] . (That is IF this is the type of arm I think it is)
Finally you need a Monitor (which I could not find one that took composite inputs for cheap AND still have the resolution to display a high quality image). But you can guess that it is gonna be ~$300.00.

So if you add all that up ... you get > $500.00.

Just my >$500.00 worth (sorry, bad joke -1)


Re:I don't think he wants it for an OS... (1)

r_naked (150044) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828156)

Well I can see I am probably gonna get marked redundant because of all the time I took to try and find cheap components ... (ohhh wellzerz).

What I would also like to point out to all the people that keep saying "use a magnifying glass" -- well what if the person has palsy, or for some other reason can not easily hold one.

Just something to think on...


magnify glass (1)

Alpha27 (211269) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828324)

they work wonders, about 5-10 dollars US.

also, you weren't too specific about what type of video is she looking at, tv or computer monitor?

If she's using a tv, not sure what to recommend for that, but as a child, I would sit really close to the tv. Granted that might worsen the glacouma.

If it's a computer, you're referring to, then there's built in accessibility in windows. I know windows 2000 has it builtin, under Accessories, under Usability. It's caled Magnifier.

Get a flat plastic magnifier... (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828797)

There are many available products which do this. Look around for one of the flat plastic magnifying lenses which are designed specifically for this purpose. It's analog and old school but they cost less than $10.

You lay them over what you want to read and voila... small text becomes big.

Cheap camera/tv setup (2, Interesting)

fuzzy1 (128925) | more than 11 years ago | (#5828801) camera to tv
typically $80 to $150 and spam sales
frequently. Work fine as wireless
so you can move around with it.

I have used it to videotape meeting notes
from the whiteboard.


Matrox video card (1)

David_Bloom (578245) | more than 11 years ago | (#5829119)

The drivers for Matrox video cards come with a program called 'Desknav' that magnifies the entire screen, scrolling it as your cursor touches the edge. The computer is controllable from the magnified display. If you've got an old Matrox card lying around, give it a shot - it works with an old Matrox Millenium (NOT Millenium 2) I've got, so I'm sure it'll work with anything you have.

Try (2, Informative)

Datoyminaytah (550912) | more than 11 years ago | (#5829157)

What exactly are you looking for? Something to magnify printed text or something on a monitor? Try

Smoke Pot (0, Troll)

claydean (230881) | more than 11 years ago | (#5829586)

Fix the glaucoma.

Elmo (1)

laard (35526) | more than 11 years ago | (#5830504)

I've used devices made by Elmo [] , and from my experience, they are little more than a cheap camera mounted with zoom/focus controls on the base... you could probably mount an old camcorder over a well lit surface to do something similar, especially if you had one with a remote.

You can't pick the system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5831476)

The person who is going to use the system needs to be the one to pick it out. Low vision affects everybody differently. There are *many* products available for people with low vision, starting with a simple magnifying glass, lighted magnifiers, stand magnifiers, full page magnifiers, etc. Then there are the CCTV / Video magnifiers, which is what you asked about.

Yes, they're basically just a CCD (i.e., video camera, hooked up to a TV set / monitor). So you could buy a camcorder and hook it up to a TV. What you don't get is: 1) Variable magnification. 2) Various video modes (color, b+w, high contrast, inverse video). 3) A moving X/Y table for easy sliding back and forth (very useful to move the book, rather than the camera). 4) Easy-to-use controls. You want somebody who's 80 years old to learn how to fix the thing when it flakes out? And push all those little buttons on a camcorder?

But in any case, maybe a magnifying glass would do the job... Find an eyecare professional who has some experience (i.e., a low vision specialist, or at least somebody) and preferably some devices to demonstrate and try out. Then let the person who needs the assistance try things out until finding something that works.

Libraries frequently have video magnifiers that may give you more ideas.

Scanner Baby! (1)

Descartes (124922) | more than 11 years ago | (#5831947)

What we did when my Grandfather started losing his sight is set up a scanner so that he could just zoom in in the ways the other posters have suggested.

I can see this being a problem because it's possible that your Grandmother doesn't have a computer or the slightest idea about how to use them (like my Grandmother).

On another note, we had a program called kurzweil when I worked in a library. It would automatically scan text, OCR it, and read it out Stephen Hawking style. It was pretty slick except for the price (I can't remember other than WAY too expensive) and the obnoxious installer. If I get motivated or if Grandpa's eyes get worse, I may try to cobble together an open source ripoff ala:
scan >> ocr >> tts
hell it probably already exists...

We've been looking too - examples of what we want (1)

hether (101201) | more than 11 years ago | (#5835690)

We've been looking for something like this for my grandma as well. To give you examples of things closer to what this reader and I are looking for, take a look at []

A magnifying glass is a nice, cheap solution, but nothing like what a magnifying device like this can do for you. Ever tried to use a large magnifying glass to read something? They're heavy. It's hard to hold them and your reading item at the same time, especially for someone that's elderly. And these device can give you closeups of anything, not just reading materials, allowing you to see the details on a picture someone sent you, the knitting you're working on, etc. These devices are very important to improving quality of life for vision impaired people, yet they're often so expensive.
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