Use Technology to Improve Your Vision With These 5 Apps

You know that staring at a screen for too long can strain your eyes, but did you know you can now use those screens to actually improve, maintain, and track changes in your vision? Some of the apps below use games to sharpen your vision, while others track vision changes in real time and send the information directly to your eye care provider.

Whether you’re a habitual smartphone devotee or an occasional tablet user, these five apps can improve the ease of daily tasks and even improve your sight.

1. Eye Therapy Exercises

Worried about your failing vision? You’re not alone. More than 44 million Americans are visually impaired, while 2 million Americans over the age of 50 have age-related macular degeneration and 4.4 million Americans over 40 have diabetic retinopathy.

While there are no apps which can completely restore vision, studies have shown that eye training and therapy exercises can improve eyesight in measureable ways. One of the best-known therapy apps, called GlassesOff, claims to decrease the need for reading glasses. It trains users’ vision via visually-stimulating images called Gabor patches. In a 30-person study, participants could read letters 1.6 times smaller after repeated use of the app than they could during the control test.

2. Magnifiers

It’s fairly simple to change the font size on an electronic device to make reading easier. But, some users still struggle to read or process information on a small, white screen. Magnifying apps fall under two main categories: phone information magnifiers and external maess information on a small, white screen. Magnifying apps fall under two main categories: phone information magnifiers and external magnifiers.

Phone information magnifiers: These apps increase the font size on webpages, apps without an intrinsic resizing option, and downloaded forms or books. Many of these apps, like Seeing Assistant Magnifier, can also alter contrast and colors.

External magnifiers: These apps work a lot like a traditional magnifying glass, with a device’s screen serving as the lens. These digital magnifying glasses use a device’s camera to relay information. Some even use the flash or flashlight so you can use the app even in dim rooms.

3. Talking Apps

For those who are blind or who have low vision, the conveniences of technology can be difficult to use or completely inaccessible. Talking apps, however, relay information aloud so those with eyesight issues can benefit from the wonders of technology.

There are a variety of talking apps, including those which perform the following functions:

  • Help navigate via talking maps and GPS directions. Apps include Ariadne GPS.
  • Identify everyday objects such as difficult-to-see colors, the current time on analog clocks, and currency denominations. Apps include Color ID FreeChimeO’Clock, and LookTel Money Reader.
  • Perform mathematic calculations and relay solutions aloud. Apps include Talking Scientific Calculator.
  • Read email, social media feeds, texts, weather reports, and more aloud. Apps include Voice Brief.

4. Vision Simulators

Those who have low vision may also struggle with explaining how their condition affects them to people with perfect vision. Vision simulators access the camera of a device and filter the view to reflect different vision conditions.

VisionSim, an app developed by the Braille Institute, simulates the following vision impairments:

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and macular degeneration
  • Cataracts
  • Corneal edema
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Glaucoma
  • Homonymous hemianopia
  • Retinal detachment
  • Retinitis pigmentosa

While simulators don’t directly affect vision quality, they can improve communication between patients with vision problems and their friends or family members.

5. Vision Tests

For individuals with rapidly degenerating vision, it can be frustrating to have to make constant appointments to track changes in their vision. While digital vision tests cannot replace eye care specialist appointments, they can provide important information about how your vision changes over time.

A wide range of vision test apps are available, from fun game-like tests to medical apps which relay collected data directly to your optometrist or retinal specialist. These apps include tests for the following conditions:

  • Age-related macular degeneration: AMD test apps provide a digital Amsler grid, which helps identify the location of vision distortions. While these apps can’t replace the medical supervision of an eye care provider, they allow patients to track vision changes as often as they want to.
  • Color blindness: These apps administer a version of the color pebble tests and can help parents and guardians identify color blindness in young children.
  • Visual acuity: From digital eye charts to behavior surveys which determine your relative risk of visual acuity problems, you have a lot of options for digitally tracking your vision clarity and acuity changes.

Remember that these apps should be used with the supervision of your optometrist or retinal specialist. While these apps can decrease the stress and difficulty of vision-related tasks, they cannot replace medical procedures to improve or preserve sight.

The next time you see your eye care provider, discuss your technology-based options. These apps, or apps like them, could be just what you need to supplement your failing vision.