Versatility Is Bringing a New World into Focus: A Shift in the Design of CCTVs Is Clear
"Wow! This CCTV is really heavy and would take up a lot of space on my desk. Do I really need all this?" People sometimes say something like this when they look at a standard desktop closed-circuit television (CCTV) with x-y table, since the sheer size of the machine can be off-putting. Others often say, "I need to use a CCTV at work or at school, too, and there is no way I can move this one around. Isn't there another style of CCTV that can give me many of the same features without being so heavy and taking up so much space?" As a matter of fact, the answer is yes.
Although standard large desktop CCTVs with x-y tables are still needed, an increasingly vocal group in the low vision community is speaking up for the need for portability in full-feature magnification. Students need magnification in different classrooms, as well as at home; working professionals need magnification in meeting rooms or when traveling to conferences, as well as at their desks; and retirees need magnification in different parts of their homes, when visiting friends and relatives or while on vacation.
Many times, a person's particular type of work simply does not require a good deal of in-depth reading, so an x-y table may be an unnecessary and unwanted feature because it accounts for much of the additional size and weight of large desktop models. Portability is not the only issue that drives the need for a more streamlined style of CCTV, however. Many people with low vision also need a self-viewing feature to assist with personal grooming, as well as a distance feature for seeing objects across a room, such as a poster or chalkboard. Unfortunately, the vast majority of large standard desktop CCTVs do not facilitate either of these two functions, further illustrating the need for a different design.
Generally, the more streamlined models (that have a monitor with an attached arm and camera) weigh 11 to 19 pounds and have a 17- or 19-inch flat-panel monitor with a camera mounted on an adjustable arm. A few companies now offer such models, including Clarity USA and Enhanced Vision. This article discusses a few of the pros and cons of the standard large desktop CCTVs and the more streamlined CCTVs, and evaluates features of the Clarity DeskMate and the Acrobat LCD from Enhanced Vision.
Which Style of CCTV Would Work Best for Me?
This question evokes individualized answers. Before you make a decision, take your specific situation and your answers to the following questions into consideration:
- Will I be using the CCTV at home, at work, at school or while traveling?
- For which tasks, such as lengthy reading sessions, filling out forms, spot reading, paying bills, handwriting, schoolwork, or hobbies, will I be using the CCTV most of the time?
- How much space do I have to accommodate the CCTV?
- What specific features, such as artificial colors, line markers, an x-y table, computer connectivity, or distance- or self-viewing, will I need to use?
- Do I need a monitor whose height and tilt can be adjusted?
Compare your answers to these questions to the features of the two CCTV styles noted next. Then, consider some of the pros and cons of the two styles. Doing so should give you a good idea of which style would work best for you. As always, I recommend researching any product that you consider purchasing by visiting the manufacturer's web site; reading product reviews; speaking to people who use the product, if possible; and trying out the product by visiting a demonstration center or requesting a demonstration from the manufacturer.
Pros and Cons of the Two Models
Pros of Large Desktop CCTVs
- They have x-y tables that better facilitate longer reading sessions.
- They may have a better-quality display.
- They generally enable the user to customize the display, in terms of the number of available artificial colors or the levels of brightness or contrast, more fully.
- Most offer a flat-panel monitor whose height and tilt can be adjusted.
- They have a significantly more stable image because the camera does not shake.
Cons of Large Desktop CCTVs
- They have a large footprint and take up a considerable amount of desk space, especially when the x-y table is used.
- They are heavy and difficult to transport. Basically, once you place one on your desk, it stays there.
- Most do not offer self- or distance-viewing.
- Most have a fixed camera that does not allow for any adjustment of the viewing angle.
- You always have to bring the material to be magnified to the CCTV and do not have the flexibility of bringing the CCTV to the material.
Pros of Streamlined Models
- They are relatively lightweight and can be moved around a room or transported from one location to another.
- They have no x-y table and take up significantly less desk space.
- They have adjustable cameras which make self- and distance-viewing possible.
- They have adjustable camera arms to allow for versatility in how you view documents or objects.
Cons of Streamlined Models
- Because the camera is attached to the end of an adjustable arm, the image displayed on the monitor can be unstable and shake from vibration when you touch the camera or bump into the table on which the unit sits.
- These CCTVs may have a lower-quality display image.
- You may not be able to customize the display characteristics of these CCTVs, such as the number of available artificial color choices and brightness or contrast levels, as fully as with the large desktop CCTVs.
- The height and tilt of these CCTV display monitors are not as adjustable to suit your specific preferences as are those of the large desktop CCTVs.
The Clarity DeskMate and the Acrobat LCD from Enhanced Vision
If you have considered these issues and think a more streamlined-style CCTV may fit your needs, two options to investigate are the DeskMate from Clarity and the Acrobat LCD from Enhanced Vision. Both CCTVs have the following features and functionality:
- Adjustable camera on a movable arm
- Battery-operated remote control
- Self-viewing feature
- Distance-viewing feature
- Auto Focus
- Focus Lock (for handwriting and looking at three-dimensional objects)
- Line markers (to help follow a line of text)
- White balance adjustment
- Various viewing modes (for those who prefer higher contrast or reverse polarity)
In addition, both products have the option of computer connectivity, and both have a custom case for transporting them. The DeskMate has a shoulder-strap carrying case that is shipped along with the product, and the Acrobat LCD has a rolling, luggage-style case that is an optional accessory. Even with these similarities, there are significant differences.
Standout Features of the Clarity DeskMate
Caption: A student looks at a wall map using the Clarity DeskMate.
- A Contrast Adjustment feature that allows you to increase the brightness and contrast of the display to suit your particular preferences. It is an important feature to have, especially in the Natural Color mode. This feature is not available on the Acrobat LCD, whose contrast is fixed at the manufacturer's defaults and cannot be adjusted.
- A Manual Focus option that allows you to set the focus point to suit specific situations when Auto Focus may not work best.
- A Page Masking feature that allows you to darken areas of the screen to help you focus on the specific area of interest.
- An Electronic Media Mode, which should be used when watching television, a computer-driven overhead projection, or a computer screen. Although this feature may not be used often, it improves the quality of the picture on electronic screens.
- The DeskMate is available in three models. You may choose a 17- or a 19-inch monitor. In the 17-inch model, a built-in battery is optional. The 19-inch model comes without a battery, although a battery can be added to create a custom device. The battery allows you to use the DeskMate for approximately 4 hours without needing to be plugged into a wall outlet. This is a helpful option, especially if you need to use the CCTV in places, such as a library or lecture hall, where finding a convenient wall outlet could be a challenge.
Standout Features of the Acrobat LCD
Caption: A college student reading a geography textbook on the Acrobat LCD.
- The camera and camera arm are flexible. In addition to rotating 340 degrees, the camera can slide left and right along a bracket that is attached to the back of the monitor. This design provides a great deal more viewing possibilities than that of the DeskMate.
- The Acrobat LCD was designed to allow you to slide printed materials under the monitor, which gives you even more flexibility to position reading and writing material.
- The controls on two sides of the camera allow for an easy reach in both the tabletop and distance-viewing modes.
- Because of their lighter weight and more portable design, the camera in both models shakes, which results in a shaking displayed image. When placed side by side on a table, when the table was bumped, both display images shook, but the DeskMate shook more and took longer to become still than did the Acrobat LCD.
- The Acrobat LCD has seven viewing modes, including high-contrast color combinations, while the DeskMate has three viewing modes, including natural color, black and white, and reverse polarity.
- The Acrobat LCD has a Freeze feature, which allows you to capture an image of what is placed under its camera, and will keep it on the screen, so you can study the image even after it has been taken from under the camera.
- The Acrobat LCD also has an Object Locater feature, which helps you find specific areas on a page to be magnified. To use the feature, you press the Find button on the camera, and the camera zooms out to the widest view, placing a target on the screen. You position the specific material under the target. When the Find button is released, the camera zooms in on the targeted spot.
What Would Make Them Better?
The Clarity DeskMate
- The camera arm should be redesigned to allow a greater number of viewing possibilities. Now, the camera mounts to the right side of the monitor, which limits the placement of reading and writing materials, as well as the materials, both near and distant, that can be viewed by the camera. It could also put left-handed users at a disadvantage.
- The amount of shaking of the camera also needs to be reduced. A stable image is important, especially when working in higher levels of magnification, because the higher the level of magnification, the more noticeable the shaking.
- Artificial colors should be added to the viewing modes to benefit those who see high-contrast colors best.
- The monitor needs to be raised a few inches to allow written materials to slide under the monitor to provide more flexibility in the placement of reading and writing material.
The Acrobat LCD
- A Contrast Adjustment feature should be added. This feature would be most useful to people in the natural color mode.
- Even though the Acrobat LCD weighs only 17 pounds, reducing its weight would increase its portability. Although the extra weight surely adds to the stability of the camera, it would be helpful if the stability of the camera could be increased and the device's overall weight was reduced.
- A left-handed mode is built into the Acrobat LCD, but it is not mentioned anywhere in the documentation. This is a feature that people need to know about, and it should be mentioned in both the manual and promotional materials.
- The addition of a battery feature would increase the Acrobat LCD's usability, since it is not always convenient or even practical to find an electrical outlet when you need to use the device.
The Bottom Line
At a price of $2,395 (19-inch monitor), the Acrobat LCD costs $400 more than the DeskMate's base price of $1,995 (17-inch monitor). Depending on your needs, however, you may find it worth the extra cost. Both magnifiers provide a good-quality magnified view for desktop-, distance-, and self-viewing, but the more varied your needs, the more you may find the Acrobat LCD to your liking. The Acrobat LCD can provide the most versatile options for viewing various objects because of its left and right moving camera arm, and the ability to push your reading and writing materials under the display monitor provides more flexibility when working with printed materials.
If you need a lighter-weight CCTV, if your viewing needs are more basic, and you do not need the additional artificial color viewing modes, or if you need a battery-powered option, the DeskMate may be the choice for you.
Whether you choose the DeskMate, Acrobat LCD, or another model, it is important to investigate the different styles of CCTVs that are on the market before you make a purchase. While there is no perfect piece of assistive technology, become and stay informed about your electronic magnification options, and choose one that best fits your particular needs.
"Enhanced Vision would like to thank AccessWorld for the review. We are a company that constantly listens to the market and responds to the ever-changing needs of the low vision community.
"Our goal in the development of Acrobat LCD was to exceed the standard in this product category. With Acrobat LCD, we believe we have achieved the best of all worlds. The ultimate flexibility of the arm, like no others, is unique in its ability to provide in-line viewing. By allowing the camera to pivot in the front and center of the monitor, we have simulated a traditional CCTV, along with many other advantages illustrated in your review. With regard to the weight, it is important to note that our unit has a larger 19 inch standard monitor.
"Thank you again for your positive review and for educating the end users on the choices available."
"Clarity is pleased to announce the introduction of the Deskmate Duo. We have taken our standard Deskmate platform and combined it with the Clarity Real® Technology which is used in our next generation platforms.
"This technology is a combination of hardware and software that, if applied between a video source and display, better enhances the contrast of the display. Key features of this technology include:
- Superior contrast
- High-contrast color combinations
- Optional video sources (such as a mouse camera)
- Optional battery management, including smart power-saving modes
- Better camera/picture stability."
Manufacturer: Clarity USA, 6776 B Preston Avenue, Livemore, CA 34551; phone: 800-575-1456; web site: www.clarityusa.com.
Price: $1,995 (17-inch screen); $2,295 (17-inch screen with battery); $2,395 (19-inch screen without battery).
Manufacturer: Enhanced Vision: 5882 Machine Drive, Huntington Beach, CA 92649; phone: 888-811-3161; web site: www.enhancedvision.com.
Price: $2,395 (19-inch screen).
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