Pebble is a Portable Video Magnifier & Low Vision Reading Aid

Freeze Image Feature Makes this Handheld an Indispensible Low-Vision Reading Aid

Pebble handheld video magnifier
With the handle folded, the Pebble provides more height and a wider viewing field. Enhanced Vision, Inc.

Enhanced Vision's Pebble is a handheld electronic magnifier that users hold over things they wish to enlarge the same way as they would a magnifying glass.

The Pebble, however, is actually a portable version of a desktop video magnifier. It has high-tech features for enlarging and enhancing images. These include an LCD light, a built-in camera, and a "freeze image" function for capturing magnified text and graphics.

Such high-resolution rendering in a device so simple to use make the Pebble and similar handhelds extremely popular among persons with visual impairments.

The Pebble's Portability Adds Immediate Value to Low-Vision Users

I recently tried the Pebble at a local vocational rehabilitation office. I turned it on, pressed a button to enlarge the serial number on the box, and clicked the "freeze image" button to capture it. The enlarged image - so useful for taking to one's computer to register the product online -remained till I clicked again.

So within seconds, the Pebble's efficient simplicity foretold a thousand uses. I immediately thought of products such as the Victor Reader Stream - devices that quickly graduate from gadget status into a part of the body for those with of us with low vision.

Pebble's Main Features

You can use the Pebble seconds after unwrapping it and plugging in the power chord. To turn it on, press the power button located on the left side of the screen. A light should be clearly visible.

Unfold the Pebble's handle from underneath the screen to hold it like a magnifying glass.

I liked that you can also use the Pebble with the handle folded in against the screen. This option adds a bit of height and a wider viewing radius that can make searching through text a bit easier.

The Pebble's main features include:

  • High-resolution LDC screen (3.5" or 4.3")
  • Easy-to-use tactile controls
  • Magnification settings of 2x -- 10x
  • 28 viewing modes with adjustable brightness, contrast, and color
  • Freeze Image and capture capability
  • Foldable handle with comfort grip
  • Rechargeable batteries (included)
  • 2-year warranty.

Using the Pebble

The Pebble is designed to focus automatically when positioned over the item you wish to magnify.

Along with the on/off switch, the Pebble has three controls for magnification, color and contrast options, and the "freeze image" function. The light can also be turned off to reduce glare.

The magnification button in the upper right corner lets you enlarge images from 2x to 10x. The four settings are 2x, 4x, 6x, and 10x.

The color/contrast button in the lower right corner lets you cycle through seven options for how text and background colors are displayed.

Some users find the high contrast of white letters on black easier to read; yellow letters on blue is another option. The settings you choose may depend on degree of vision loss and what you're viewing.

The freeze image button is on the left front of the screen. Pressing it snaps a picture of whatever is beneath the camera. A second click erases the captured image.

The freeze function is the Pebble's "killer app," enabling you to snag information and bring it where you need it. For example, you can capture recipes or classified ads and bring the enlarged text to the telephone or kitchen counter.

When in use, it's normal for the Pebble to heat up, as it integrates a camera, LCD light, and battery charger in one compact unit.

Use the power supply whenever possible, as it charges the battery when plugged in. When fewer than three minutes of battery power remain, the Pebble will sound a warning beep once every 30 seconds.

With any handheld magnifier, it's important to not touch the glass or camera lens. If either gets smudged, clean the surface carefully using a lens-cleaning cloth or cotton swab.

Pebble Limitations Include Cost & Short Battery Life

I saw two limitations with the Pebble. The $595 price tag puts it out of reach for many people. And while special education or vocational rehabilitation might be paying, they're unlikely to buy a handheld in addition to a desktop model offering greater magnification (up to 72x) and viewing options conducive to sustained reading.

The other drawback is brevity of the battery charge. Two hours is plenty for use here and there, but a morning of research in the stacks at the library will likely necessitate use of the power cord, which means finding an outlet.

On the whole, however, the Pebble does what it does so well and so easily, I can't help but recommend it. Its high-tech features infused in an old-fashioned device epitomize elegance.

For questions or technical issues, Enhanced Vision customer service (800.440.9476 or 714.465.3400) is available Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm, PST.