The latest version of the eSight, the eSight 4, is different, very different from previous eSight models. The eSight 4 is one of a number of wearables for users with low vision, that are worn like glasses, or goggles, essentially putting a video magnifier right on your nose. Look across the room, out the window, at a book, adjust the magnification, and you have a device that magnifies what you’re looking at, and under the best of circumstances makes it easier to see.
Common complaints for wearables, in general, are that they are heavy to wear, look like ski goggles or masks, get warm from the electronic gear, and are designed to use sitting down because they cover your eyes, and the peripheral vision you’d use for safely walking around. The eSight 4 seems to be designed in response to many of these complaints—it’s a wearable that is more comfortable, looks more like eyewear than a mask, is controlled wirelessly, and does not completely cover the eyes, so peripheral vision is available. In addition, the headset is designed in such a way that the visor can be pushed up and out of the way when not being used.
Out of the Box
The eSight 4 comes in a sturdy carrying case which contains the visor mounted to what is called a “halo comfort band", that goes around the head, 2 battery packs that attach to the headset directly in back of the head, a charging cable for the batteries, a wireless remote, printed User Guide and Quick Start Guide.
The headset has adjustments for the halo comfort band so it can be adjusted to fit the wearer’s head, and another adjustment for the visor to position it closer or farther away from the eyes. This adjustment allows users to wear their prescription glasses beneath the visor. Another adjustment on the visor allows it to tilt in toward the face or further out. While the eSight visor covers less of the face than some of the other wearables, it is worth noting that when being used the visor looks like large opaque sunglasses.
How it Works
An 18-megapixel camera is mounted on the visor, just above the nose. Two independent, 1280 by 960, OLED high resolution screens are built into the inside of the visor, one for each eye. The headset contains 3 integrated speakers, a power and context button, and a small touchpad on the right arm of the visor that can be used to perform some of the major functions. A separate, wireless, remote is used for the full range of functions. At the very back of the headset, a Li-ion battery pack is plugged into a quick-connect port. The eSight ships with 2 batteries, each said to last for 3 hours of continuous use and recharged with the included USB cable. A great feature incorporated into the headset is that the headset holds a small charge which provides plenty of time to disconnect one battery and plug in another, without shutting down or disrupting use.
The headset and visor adjustments are really well designed. The little weight of the battery in the back seems to offset the weight of the visor. That coupled with the adjustments on the visor and the headset really make the eSight comfortable to wear for longer periods of time.
The eSight has many advanced features built in—it connects to Wi-Fi for automatic software updates, is Bluetooth enabled so it will connect to an Android or iOS eSight app, can take pictures, connect to the TV with an HDMI cable, etc., yet it can also be quickly used right out of the box without a lot of technical fuss. Press and hold the power button for a couple seconds, the screens on the visor start up and the user is put into “Live Mode.” Use the up and down arrows on the remote or a slide forward or back with a finger on the touch pad, and magnification is increased or decreased. The image quality is good and automatic focus keeps things sharp as you glance from object to object, from near to far.
Fine Tuning the Picture
Touch any button on the wireless remote to turn it on and connect when the eSight is on. The remote enables users to customize the eSight to their vision and preferences. The menu options are spoken with an adjustable volume, using the up and down arrows and the Back button on the remote.
Press the Menu button to cycle through the main menu items. These include:
- Live View- looking through the camera.
- Gallery- the file folder where captured images and videos are stored. The eSight comes with 256 Gigs of onboard storage!
- eReader- where electronic texts are located. This does not include support documentation which is tucked away under the Support menu. Connect eSight via USB to a computer, and transfer PDF files into the eReader directory to view with eSight. Note: the eReader does not include text to speech.
- Settings- includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth set-up, configuring various viewing modes, sounds, language, and the overall appearance of menus.
- Support- electronic user guides, training videos, device information, and adjustments to customize the screens to user’s eyes.
It’s worth pointing out that the magnification in Live View enlarges to 24X. When the support documents are loaded into the eReader, the maximum magnification level is 10X, which for this reader was just enough at maximum zoom to read the documents, and text to speech was not available. For many users, this documentation will be easier to read using the printed version with eSight, or downloading them from the website. Additionally, in the Settings>Advanced>Appearance>Size option where the font size for the menu is selected, at the highest of the three settings available, “Extra Large,” this user found the size just adequate for reading visually, and some users will want a larger font to accompany the text to speech.
One of the first settings to configure are tucked away under Support>Onboarding. Here the user will find, “Adjust eye to eye distance,” and “Adjust screen to eye distance.” Both settings allow the user to customize how they view the screens.
eSight has several preconfigured reading modes for different viewing or lighting conditions. These modes include: Indoor; Outdoor; Reading, TV/Theater, and two custom modes. In each one of these modes, the user can further customize the view by setting brightness and contrast and color filters for each mode. When in Live View, holding down the context button for a second will switch to Modes/Filters, and the up and down arrows will move through the Mode options. For example, if outdoors you may want to select the full color outdoor mode, and then when returning indoors to read a magazine, you may want to switch to the reading mode, where you may have set-up a high contrast mode configured for white text on a black background.
Is eSight Right for You?
eSight is designed for the low vision user who might also benefit from a video magnifier. The eSight website suggests eSight is useful for those with a visual acuity between 20/60 to 20/800, and “in some cases up to 20/1400.” An initial meeting with an eSight partner or a call to an “eSight Advisor” will help determine if eSight may be useful for you. If no partner is nearby, eSight has an option for a trial in the home with some one-on-one support by phone or video to give it a try. A non-refundable chage of $99 will be incurred for shipping, handling, and cleaning if the eSight is returned and not purchased after the trial.
My Take on eSight
The ability for the new user to get the eSight out of the box and working in the basic Live View mode was impressive! The overall comfort of the halo headband and visor must be one of the best for comparable wearables. The inclusion of two quick-connect, 3-hour rechargeable batteries means that the eSight can be worn all day long at work, school, or for most any extended activity requiring a magnified view. These are great forward steps with this technology.
Overall, the image quality of the camera was good, with very little hesitation in the video as you look around from object to object. In lower light situations, at night, with indirect lamplight, the image became grainier. This was not obvious when outdoors or with daylight lighting up a room. The touchpad on the right arm of the visor is a great feature, eliminating the need to have the remote all the time. It has a line of bumps before and after it, so with a bit of practice was easy to locate. Swiping forward and backward, up and down, did not seem to offer the same precision as the remote buttons, however. It is entirely possible that with practice, these gestures become more precise. In the meantime, users may want to keep the remote handy or download the app for their smartphone, which can then be used instead of the remote.
It will be exciting to see where eSight goes as it continues to develop the eSight 4. For example, text to speech is currently available for the menu items only, and the eReader does not yet offer OCR. It seems like the next step here might be to offer OCR for photos that contain text, and to include text to speech for electronic documents. The sound quality from the 3 speakers mounted in the headset is good, so it’s easy to imagine listening to text being read out loud as it scrolls across the visor’s screens.
At $5950 retail the eSight 4 costs significantly less than previous eSight models and has made plenty of updates. If you’re looking for video magnification in a head-mounted wearable, be sure to check out some of the new features here.