Visually Impaired by Dry or Wet AMD? Low-Vision Apps, Devices, and Virtual Assistants Can Expand Your View

The number and range of resources available to people with visual challenges have exploded in recent years. Stocksy

For those who face some degree of age-related vision loss such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), also known as dry or wet AMD, there are numerous assistive programs, devices, and smartphone applications that can help. 

While recent breakthroughs in treatment ensure that fewer people will be left entirely without sight, those with some limitations can choose from an array of applications, innovations, and virtual assistants designed to help them see a brighter future.

“Advances in facial recognition, artificial intelligence [AI], augmented reality, and other technologies, even in the past few years alone, have been repurposed to tangibly improve the lives of the visually impaired,” says Calvin Roberts, MD, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College and the president and CEO of Lighthouse Guild in New York City.

Technology is essential to that turnaround, usually beginning at home with a laptop or smartphone. Apple maintains resources for the visually impaired online and at AppleVis. And Microsoft lists its accessibility features on its website. But the number of helpful aids goes far beyond those two companies.

This roundup is the tip of the iceberg for resources, listed first by function and then by the smartphone operating system they use. (When purchasing, always ask about or look for price discounts.)

Enhanced Eyes

When a condition such as advanced macular degeneration (wet) affects the central portion of their vision, people must compensate by using their peripheral vision. Tasks like seeing faces, driving a car, reading price tags or ingredients on a food label become challenging, if not impossible. These wearables aim to change that.

  • eSight glasses project images onto high-resolution screens (one per eye) to deliver full binocular vision. These modified glasses are rechargeable, typically functioning for at least three hours on a single charge. The price is $6,950, with the option to rent by the month.[1]
  • Eyedaptic glasses were created to compensate for central vision loss. They use special lenses that magnify and project the full visual field onto an unaffected portion of the retina, simulating full-field vision. They cost about $4,000 to $7,000.[2]
  • IrisVision Inspire pairs smartphone technology and voice control capabilities with stylish, sunglasses to simulate a full visual view by filling in missing areas of sight. The cost is around $4,000.
  • Vision Buddy is a low-vision assistant that uses the power of telescoping magnification to zoom in on anything from a television program to printed material. The device has three modes: TV and movie streaming, magnification, and reading. It sells for just under $3,000.

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