by Joe Fontenot MD, CLVT – Medical Director and Patricia Hacker – Equipment Specialist from Community Services for Vision Rehabilitation (CSVR) 600 Bel Air Blvd, Suite 110 Mobile Alabama 36606
In the early 1990’s, the first head mounted electronic magnifiers were produced. These had the advantage of being able to vary the strength of magnification from mild to very strong, depending on the need.
Since then, several different devices have been produced and marketed, with more sophisticated ones becoming available in the last 5 years. They are more versatile than the simple glass-frame optical non electronic telescopes, have more capabilities and can do more than simple magnification.
Advantages of Head Mounted Electronic Devices:
- Variable magnification up to very high levels
- Can magnify at close or far distances
- Image may be manipulated by changing to “reverse polarity” (white-on-black), changing colors or altering contrast
- Much lighter and more portable than standard desktop video magnifiers
- May include other features besides simple magnification (as, OCR reading, object and face recognition, live monitoring and recording)
- Allows hands-free use
- The field of vision is reduced … and this effect increases as magnification increases
- You cannot walk safely with the devices covering your eyes and restricting your field of view. The devices must be removed so that your field of view is not compromised.
- Any head tremor, as with Parkinsonism, will be exaggerated by a head mounted device
- They are expensive, varying from $2,300 to $10,000
- Are heavier than normal glasses and may be uncomfortable to use for more than a short time
- Require power to operate and some require a smart phone operating concurrently
Clinical Evaluation Before Buying a Head Mounted Device
All with vision loss should be evaluated by a vision rehabilitation specialist before deciding to purchase any aid or magnifier, especially the expensive head mounted devices. There are many relatively inexpensive aids that may accomplish an individual’s needs and goals that are less expensive than head-mounted devices and just as effective. Some devices are being aggressively marketed. The old Roman saying, “Caveat emptor” or “buyer beware” should be remembered.
If you have not been evaluated by a low vision specialist at a Vision rehabilitation clinic, you should do so before purchasing a head mounted device. For information about finding a facility near you, see the addendum at the end of this article: “Finding a Vision Rehabilitation Clinic Near You”.
Tips For Buying a Head Mounted Device
- Can the device be returned at no or minimal cost if it does not satisfy your needs?
- Is there a warranty for at least one year?
- Is training to use the device free and easily available?
Types of Head Mounted Magnifiers
New head-mounted devices come in two categories; One with cameras that magnify and the other with cameras that use OCR readers and / or staff to help you read and navigate without having to use any vision. The first category is utilized by the visually impaired, and the second by those with very severe vision loss or total blindness.
Currently Available Head Mounted Magnifiers
Note: The following list of devices is simplified and shortened.
Prices and features may change. For full, up-to-date information,
use the company’s contact information.
This new head mounted magnifier is one of the least expensive. Designed by Dr. Frank Werblin of UCLA Berkley and marketed by IrisVision. It features a magnifying window that may be changed in size and strength of magnification. It has a relatively large field of view and requires a smart phone.
Return policy: 30 days
Return cost: $250
Training: By Skype
Web site: irisvisio.com/
Phone: (855) 207-6665
The Jordy was produced and marketed in the early 1990’s by Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS). It has recently been redesigned and made smaller, lighter and has additional features besides magnification. It has HDMI connection for watching TV and other features.
Cost: $3620.00 w/ 4 hour battery pack or $3695.00 w/8 hour battery pack.
May return at no cost up to 30 days
Warranty: 2 years
Nu Eyes features voice activation of magnification levels, 3D stereoscopic imaging, high-speed wireless connectivity and high-performance positional sensors and has OCR capability. (Full Android computer function optional)
Cost: $5995.00 to $6195.00
Warranty: 2 years
eSight is a wearable electronic magnifier for those with low vision. It allows manipulation of the image, can reverse polarity or change colors. It is now in its 3rd version and has additional features.
Cost of trial: $500
Warranty: 1 year (upgrades free)
CyberEyez combines adjustable magnification up to 15X and an OCR reader that features a bar code reader, and facial mood recognition.
(Still under development)
No cost return within 30 days
Warranty: 1 year
Phone: 202- 827-6883
Head Mounted Electronic Devices Without Magnification
OrCam communicates visual information by utilizing a small camera and a sophisticated, rapid OCR reader. In addition to reading text, it can recognize faces, money and other objects.
Mounted on an eyeglass frame, it connects to a smartphone-sized computer/battery. It discreetly relays text and other visual information by audio in real time through a tiny speaker positioned close to the ear.
Cost: 2,500 to $4,500
Aira, pronounced EYE-rah, is a rented, glass frame mounted camera that relays live images to a center where the image is viewed in real time by trained personnel who communicate with the wearer via a framemounted speaker … like having a person beside you.
Rent: From $89 per month
To find a vision rehab facility near you:
- Ask your own ophthalmologist
- Contact a medical school near you
- Go to VisionServealliance.org and look at “Members” list
- Go to Vision Aware at
- For state services, look up your state’s “Department of Vocational
Rehabilitation” or “Department of Rehabilitation Services”.
- For Veterans, contact your local VA facility and ask for the
“VIST Counselor”(Vision Impairment Service Team) counselor.
These are the counselors specializing in helping the visually impaired.
You may also call 1-877-222-8387, the main VA health care
number, and ask for the VIST counselor in your area.