Electronic Magnifier for Visually Impaired Mother or for Your Projects




Introduction: Electronic Magnifier for Visually Impaired Mother or for Your Projects

About: I'm a photographer by trade and tinkerer in my spare time.
My partners mother has a worsening eye condition (Fuchs corneal dystrophy) that makes reading hard  She's been trying to find a decent solution and has tried a number of things.  Her iPad does a great job for digital publications but simple things like reading the paper can be frustrating.

In this instructable I'll be building a simple yet effective Electronic Magnifier.

To begin with, I already own a ClearView electronic magnifier.  I originally got it from our local tip which has a junk shop.  At the time I had no idea what it was for. What I really wanted from it was the carriage that moved the base around (X, Y Axis for small CNC).  When we got it home, I turned it on and was pretty excited to see what I had.  The LEDs that light up the base were only half working, so, considering that's all that was wrong with it I decided to fix it and use it for electronics and precision work rather than tear it apart.  I was also completely blown away by the price of these units.  They start at around $2000+ which makes them quite unaffordable for a lot of people.

We took the ClearView magnifier to my partners mother to have a look and see if she wanted it.  She pointed out a number of problems and this is where the build idea got started. The problems she pointed out were:
  • The ClearView is pretty heavy.  Made of a steel frame, its not easy to just set aside.
  • Its footprint is big, so keeping it on a table can be troublesome.
  • The ClearView model I have is an older version running on an old school analogue AV signal, so a regular monitor can't be used and CRT sets are bulky and again, heavy.
To fix these issues, what she needs is something thats light, can be removed with reasonable ease, doesn't need a lot of space and uses a signal that any modern monitor can handle (HDMI/DVI).

Build time for this version was around about 2 hours.

Parts and tools required:
  • Screw driver
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Self tapping screws
  • Pipes from a vacuum or large curtain rails or strong piping in general
  • Some form a stand or heavy duty clamps
  • Camcorder/zooming webcam/Camera with LiveView feature. Preferably a camera with some sort of Macro feature. (I used a 5 year old Sony Camcorder - one of the first 1080p's)
  • Tripod Head or something you can make an adjustable mount with.
  • appropriate cabling
  • Glue/Thermoplastic/Putty (I used thermoplastic)
  • Hacksaw

Step 1: Gather Your Parts

The first thing you're going to need to do is find your parts. Most of my parts are from my local junk shop/salvage yard.  I do love a good junk shop. :)

The camera I used was given to me some months ago, disposed of by a company that had upgraded.

The key to the build is to get the camera high enough and far enough away from the base that you can move a newspaper around comfortably under the camera.  So, when you're scrounging for parts or building something, make you sure you keep it in mind.

My Tripod head is off an old 80's Stitz tripod.  You're tripod head will need to hold the weight of your camera as well as stand up to someone pressing buttons and making adjustments.

Step 2: Take a Stand

I started with the stand.  I screwed the stand onto a piece of perspex to add some stability.  It was simply a matter of drilling a few holes through the perspex and into the stand, then adding some self tapping screws to the holes.

The plan originally was to do to add clamps to the stand so it won't need a board but I haven't found suitable clamps just yet.  The overhang of the camera will make for an unstable platform but the key idea behind this particular build is to make the smallest footprint possible.

Step 3: Pipes

I took a plastic angle piece from a vacuum handle and a metal neck, drilled through the plastic into the metal pipe and added a self tapping screw.  This insures that the pipes don't pull apart and don't turn.  I then cut the metal neck down to size with an angle roughly 90 degrees (right angle) to the ground.  This keeps the tripod head level.

When thats assembled, it simply slipped straight over the stand.  It's a firm enough fit not to spin but free enough to turn by hand.

Step 4: Tripod Head and Camera

To fit the the tripod head onto the neck I placed the tripods mount against the neck, held it in place with duct tape and filled the tripod mount and neck full of melted thermoplastic and sat back for 30 minutes while it cooled and set.  You can get a good idea on how to use thermoplastic from plastimake.com.

Don't be stingy with the plastic, you want it to go a couple of inches down the neck.  When its set, you should be able to slide the head in and out of the neck freely.  Because my neck is on an angle, it doesn't need anything to keep it from falling out.  If you build yours so that its parallel to the ground, you might want to consider tapping a screw in place so it can't fall out.

Now mount your camera :)

Step 5: Lights, Camera, Monitor.

My camera has an LED light on it for low light situations, you may need to consider mounting a light.  I suggest some LED's in a fitting of some sort. Something that can focus some light to where the camera is pointing.

Because the camera is mounted back to front, the image on the monitor is inverted.  To solve this problem, I took the monitor stand off  and simply turned it upside down.  I used the base of the stand to stop the monitor from sliding around. I'll be adding a Vesa mount to it soon, just need to find something that suits the build.

Step 6: Action!

Sort your cables out.  In this case, its standard HDMI.  I connected the monitor up, then wound the excess cable around the neck till I got to the camera.  Make sure you leave enough slack to move around a little at both ends.

Plug it all in, check your zoom, if you have a TeleMacro function, turn it on.  Make sure your lighting is adiquate.

And - you're done! :)

You now should have a simple electronic magnifier that has a small footprint, is lighter to move, easy to disassemble and can swivel out of the way when needed.

Step 7: Future Improvements

  • Add better lighting (on camera lighting isn't great)
  • Add a laser pointer - the ClearView has a focused red LED that points to where you are on the page when you need to know.  Its a handy feature.
  • Really need to find a proper mount for the monitor
  • Consider putting the cables inside a cable snake and cable tiing to the neck
  • Find appropriate clamps to go on to the stand and remove the perspex.
  • Maybe replace the monitor with a laptop and a USB capture card.  Can then parse filters for contrast, colour, etc on the fly with real time streaming.
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    8 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job! I'm going to put something like this together for my Dad.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you! My sister has the exact same problem with a magnifier platform that is big, heavy, and totally outdated (and of course in no way portable). This inspires me and I'm already looking at a standard cheap photo chest "monopod" with leg-adapters and a cheap point-and-shoot digital camera plugged into a already existing iPad as a basis for what you suggest. The chest monopod and DIY legs and small camera could fit into a soft small 3 inch diameter by 12 inch bag and supplement the iPad already in use. This posting really highlights how indeed unfortunate the "adaptive" device commercial market has been hijacked by the bloated health-care/insurance engine and that the offered devices are often 2 to 5 generations behind current technology and way, way over priced as "insurance scheduled" items. This is an excellent Instructable on how cut out many redundant non-responsive layers of middle men and use low price parts for a truly better, more useable, adaptable DIY device than the very crude one-size-fits-all medical delivery system has to offer. This is a major reason why this site exists as far as I am concerned. Thanks!!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for taking the time to comment JTomM129! :)

    I agree, the price of these aids are far too high and the one size fits all method for these sorts of aids isn't going to work for a lot of people. I guess there are a lot of considerations a company has to make, both to stay in business and also to profit. That being said, people should have access to these sorts of aids regardless of their wealth!

    I'd love to see what you come up with. If you feel up to it, please post a photo. Every and any idea can lead to more practical solutions and expansions.



    8 years ago on Introduction

    What a great idea! Thanks for sharing and posting a valuable instructable.