Recently, a local clinic which specializes in treatment for low-sight and blind individuals made him aware of and showed him several assistive reading devices that successfully allowed him to read. He mentioned this to his family members, and when I was told about it, I thought that these devices sounded like they were not much more than a camera attached to an LCD monitor or television with a little bit of special software thrown into the mix. Some investigation online turns up products such as these, and their prices are so prohibitively high ($2400-$3000) that the manufacturer won't even list them on their website. Furthermore, the effects that these devices can apply to the picture they output look awfully similar to the effects filters built into many webcams, and the ability to zoom and pan a live view of the screen is something that I've done effortlessly for years on OS X, and that I know exists in many Linux desktop environments.
My current plan is to try to build something like this with a used Mac Mini, a Logitech HD Webcam with a full-screen view of the camera always up, and a Magic Trackpad to control zoom level and screen position, plugged into a huge LCD TV that he already owns.
Have any of you ever built something like this? Am I wrong in thinking that the ease of use would be comparable to the purpose built devices when configured correctly? Is this something that might work better with a newer nettop device, a digital camera or camcorder, and Windows (where I'm skilled at automating things) or Linux at the core instead?"