After my first year of receiving Vocational Rehabilitation services through the Virginia Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DBVI), I received an assistive technology assessment to learn more about technology that I could use in my college classes. One of the devices that was recommended to me is the E-Bot Pro, which was purchased by DBVI and given to me at no cost so that I could reach my goals for college success. The E-Bot Pro has been an awesome tool for my education that I wish I had access to in high school, and today’s post is all about how I use the HIMS E-Bot Pro in college.
Basic overview of E-Bot Pro
The E-Bot Pro is a video magnifier/mounted CCTV for low vision that consists of a white camera, adjustable arm, and base that are controlled by a joystick or remote control. Unlike traditional video magnifiers that have a built-in screen, the E-Bot Pro connects to a computer, TV, or tablet to display information, and has several features for adjusting display colors, scanning text, and adjusting the viewing angle.
The E-Bot Pro was discontinued by HIMS around 2018. However, there are a few different places that a user might be able to source an E-Bot Pro for classroom use, including:
- Through the state assistive technology system/lending library
- State unit for visual impairment
- Secondhand websites and device exchange/assistive technology recycling programs
- University assistive technology services
- Services Provided By State Department/State Unit for Visual Impairment
- Vocational Rehabilitation for College Students
- What To Know About College Assistive Technology Specialists
How to set up the E-Bot Pro
The E-Bot Pro requires about 12 inches of desk space, though I prefer to place it on either a larger table or have two desks close together in the college classroom. There are two options for connecting devices to the E-Bot Pro:
- Wired connection, which uses USB, HDMI, or DVI ports on the device
- Wireless connection, which requires users to connect their device to a Wifi hotspot that’s built into the E-Bot Pro. Users cannot access the internet while their device is connected to the E-Bot Pro
To use the E-Bot Pro with mainstream technology such as an iPad, users will have to download the E-Bot Pro application online from the HIMS website or from their device’s app store. I exclusively use my E-Bot Pro with the iPad application on my personal iPad.
As of 2020, the HIMS E-Bot Viewer app is no longer on the Google Play Store.
- E-bot Viewer on the App Store (apple.com)
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Tablets
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Computers
- Questions To Ask When Choosing A Laptop For College
Display settings for E-Bot Pro
Users can customize the display for the E-Bot Pro using the remote or with their application in several ways, including:
- Adjusting color contrast/filters- the contrast can be adjusted on a scale of 1 to 40
- High contrast color schemes
- Automatic OCR/text scanning for reading text out loud
- Automatic scrolling or positioning, which is helpful for reading
- Controlling the device with keyboard shortcuts on a computer/wireless keyboard
- Adjusting image quality with built-in lighting
- Options for saving documents or images to a SD card
- Voice guide/text-to-speech for navigating settings
- Choosing High Contrast Color Schemes For Low Vision
- How To Create High Resolution Images For Low Vision
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Keyboards
- Lighting And Low Vision
Using the E-Bot Pro with information at a distance
The E-Bot Pro camera can rotate 270 degrees, which makes it helpful for magnifying information on a whiteboard or projector in class. When I was taking a science class in a lecture hall, I discovered that I still had trouble reading the board even from the front row, so I connected the E-Bot Pro to enlarge my professor’s handwritten notes on my screen. To position the camera, I use either the device remote, or hand gestures on the iPad like pinch-to-zoom, swiping to position the camera, and similar gestures. The device can be controlled entirely with either the remote or with the app.
Using the E-Bot Pro for up-close reading
If my professor hands me a paper quiz in small print or if I have to read through handwritten notes, I can use the E-Bot Pro to magnify text up to 50x, though I noticed I had trouble reading notes that are written with mechanical pencil or very fine print (6 pt font or smaller). Images can also be enlarged with the E-Bot Pro, and I was impressed with the image clarity compared to other video magnifiers I had tried, which often cast a dark or shadowy light over images.
E-Bot Pro for testing and exams
I have an approved Disability Services file at my college for using assistive technology in the classroom and in the Disability Services testing center. Instead of going to the testing center, some of my professors allowed me to use my E-Bot Pro for exams taken in the classroom, enabling Guided Access on my iPad to ensure I did not use any external applications. Since the E-Bot Pro cannot access the internet and doesn’t have any other wireless connection options, my professors were fine with me using this on exams, and it was also permitted in the testing center.
The year after I graduated from high school, the E-Bot Pro was mentioned as an approved accommodation for Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) standardized testing, and would also be approved for other standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT.
- How To Create A Disability Services File
- Testing Accommodations For Low Vision Students
- SOL Test Accommodations And Low Vision
- SAT Accommodations for Low Vision
Transporting and charging the E-Bot Pro
The E-Bot Pro weighs around seven pounds, and my device came with a green carrying case that could be carried on the shoulders or with another strap. Since I have trouble carrying heavy items on my shoulders, I would place the carrying case in a rolling backpack and use that to transport the magnifier to my classes. If my classes were particularly far away, I would take the campus shuttle or ask a friend to drive me to class.
As for battery life, the E-Bot Pro lasts about four hours on a full battery charge, but can also be used while plugged into an outlet. Since I don’t typically use the E-Bot Pro in back-to-back classes, I haven’t run into any issues with the battery life as long as I charge my device before or after class. HIMS continues to sell E-Bot Pro replacement batteries even though the device was discontinued.
- Choosing A Backpack With Chronic Pain
- What’s In My College Backpack As A Low Vision Student
- Preferential Seating and Low Vision
How I talk to my professors about the E-Bot Pro
At the beginning of the semester, I meet with my professors to go over my Disability Services file and how I will use the accommodations listed for their particular class. For example, I told my geology professor at the start of the semester that I use the E-Bot Pro on my desk for magnifying information on the board as well as samples of rocks or minerals for labs, and scheduled some time for them to check out the device and see how it is used. Some of my professors didn’t ask any further questions and let me use the device without hesitation, while others appreciated having the opportunity to check out the device for themselves and see how I was using it. I never had a professor restrict or ban the use of the E-Bot Pro in the classroom.
- How To Explain Disability Accommodations To Professors
- Five Apps I Use In The Science Classroom As A Low Vision Student
- Eight Things You Need To Know About Your Disability Accommodations
Additional resources for E-Bot Pro
- An Evaluation of the HIMS E-bot PRO | Accessworld | American Foundation for the Blind (afb.org)
- E-bot PRO User Manual