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LOW VISION

There’s an App for That

A must-have roundup of some of the newest—and truly amazing—apps that can assist your partially sighted patients

the mobile app ecosystem is one of the biggest industries on the planet. In 2017 alone, the total number of mobile app downloads skyrocketed to 197 billion, and the iOS App Store boasted a whopping 2.2 million apps as of January 2017.

Apps come in all shapes and sizes and, today, there are even a plethora of apps that can make a big difference in the daily activities of partially sighted patients. Here, we deliver a roundup of some of the standouts.

ANDROID APPS

Many apps are created for both Android and iOS, but here are a few that were recently designed specifically for Android users and are free on the Google Play Store.

Be My Eyes: Named Best of 2017 by Google App, this app establishes a live video and audio connection between the visually impaired person and the first registered volunteer who accepts the request to offer voice support for anything from reading labels to navigating foot traffic.

Visually Impaired: By simply shaking their smart phone, users can make a call, control music, launch an app, and more.

IOS APPS

Each of these unique apps is available for iOS—and some are adding Android versions, as well.

VocalEyes AI: Created at MIT, VocalEyes uses proprietary computer vision algorithms to identify objects, read text, detect faces, and can reportedly even classify emotions.

Aira: A highly rated app launched last year, Aira provides an always-on service to help users gain more mobility and independence. It uses a mix of live video plus audio and data streams, and provides personalized assistance from trained Aira agents, family members, or friends. Paired with state-of-the-art technology, these trained agents serve as visual interpreters.

Dolphin EasyReader: An app that’s reported to have the world’s largest collection of talking books and newspapers. The user can download books and newspapers, and also copy text from anywhere on their phone and have it read back.

APPS FOR ALL

These inventive, solutions-focused apps were designed for both Android and IOS users.

WayAround: Created by two architects with vision loss, WayAround is a simple tag-and-scan system that promotes independence in everyday situations. Users place small, inexpensive smart tags onto everyday items—and add descriptions as well as other details like laundering instructions, allergens, best-before dates, and more.

Eye-D: Features include Where Am I (current location and walking directions); Around Me (finds ATMs, bus stops, etc., within a set distance); Image Recognition (voice assist); plus Text Read and See Object modes.

New and advancing technologies are constantly making things possible that could only have been imagined a couple of years earlier. Make sure you and your patients keep up with the ever-increasing reservoir of apps. —Grace Hewlett

APPLE BUILT-INS

When it comes to built-in apps that can assist the partially sighted user, Apple gets the prize. Key options include:

VoiceOver: an advanced screen reader that also helps navigate a Multi-Touch screen (called TalkBack for Android).

Siri: the intelligent Apple assistant that is integrated with VoiceOver.

Zoom: a built-in magnifier. Double-tap with three fingers and it instantly zooms in 200%, and can be adjusted from 100-550%.

Large Text: increases fonts up to 56 points.

Invert Colors: to increase the contrast on the screen.

FaceTime: with enlarged image capabilities.

SpeakSelection: reads email, iMessages, webpages, and books aloud.