[tabi] Re: What is This?: A Review of the VizWiz, Digit-Eyes, and LookTel Recognizer Apps for the iPhone

  • From: "Chip Orange" <Corange@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2012 16:39:18 -0400

If anyone would like to hear a demo of the free BC scan system I was 
mentioning, with an omni-directional barcode scanner (so you don't have to try 
to find the barcode), you can hear a techTalk interview about it at the site 



-----Original Message-----
From: tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of 
Chip Orange
Sent: Monday, April 09, 2012 5:58 PM
To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [tabi] Re: What is This?: A Review of the VizWiz, Digit-Eyes, and 
LookTel Recognizer Apps for the iPhone

Just FYI,

One other option is to purchase an omni-directional barcode scanner (optimized 
for very fast automatic location of the barcode), and use it with window-eyes 
and a free app, or a free program which also utilizes the bcscan.com database.  
The database has many millions of products, and operating or cooking 
instructions, and of course allows anyone to enter a description for an unknown 
barcode and it's immediately shared with all other users.

The omni-directional scanners run around $300, and plug into any pc or portible 
braille note-taker using USB.


-----Original Message-----
From: tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of 
Lighthouse of the Big Bend
Sent: Monday, April 09, 2012 10:23 AM
To: tabi; fcb-l
Subject: [tabi] What is This?: A Review of the VizWiz, Digit-Eyes, and LookTel 
Recognizer Apps for the iPhone

What is This?: A Review of the VizWiz, Digit-Eyes, and LookTel
Recognizer Apps for the iPhone
From: http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw130404
By Janet Ingber

Have you ever found a can and had no idea what was in it? Have you
ever mixed up socks and couldn't tell their color? VizWiz, Digit-Eyes,
and LookTel Recognizer are three iPhone apps that can help identify
items. An iPhone 4 was used for this review but these apps work on
most iOS devices with cameras.

VizWiz Identification App by ROC HCI
VizWiz is a free and easy-to-use identification app. You take a
picture of an item, record a question, and then send the photo and
question to your choice of: anonymous Web volunteers, IQ Engines (a
photo recognition software platform), your Twitter followers, your
Facebook friends, and/or an e-mail contact. Answers are returned to

How to Use VizWiz
When the app opens, the "Camera" button will be on the screen. Point
the camera towards the object to be identified. Get as much of your
object in the view field as possible. Double-tap the camera button and
listen for the sound of the camera taking the picture.

After the image has been captured, a new screen will load with a
Record button. Double-tap the button and the phone will vibrate. Speak
your question clearly. Double tap the screen when you're finished. A
new screen will load to choose the destination(s) for your question
and picture. Choices are made via toggle switches. Double tapping each
switch activates or deactivates it. Once you've made your choices,
activate the send button. A "Back" button is always available to
return to the previous screen.

After the Send button has been activated, VizWiz loads the "View
Answers" screen. The rate at which answers appear varies, depending on
the item and the responders you've selected. New answers are spoken as
they appear, along with where the answer came from. It may take some
time for all answers to arrive. You can close the app while you wait.
When you re-launch the app, the answer screen will be there.

VizWiz Test Results
Ten minutes elapsed between the time the "Send" button was activated
and the results were reviewed.

Image: A can of Healthy Choice Tomato Basil Soup received two responses.
Question: "What's in this can?"
IQ Engines said: "Healthy Choice Soup"
A Web worker said: ""This is a health drink. It is useful for heart."

Image: A can of Diet Coke received one response.
Question: "What's in this can?"
IQ Engines said: "Diet Coke"

Image: Brown, white, and off-white animal print blouse
Question: "What does this blouse look like?" received three responses.
Web workers said: "A cloth of some kind."
Another Web worker: "Like a tiger skin."
IQ Engines said "Animal print."

Image: A faded Adidas black sock.
Question: "What color is this sock?"
Two Web workers said: "gray."
IQ Engines said: "Adidas gray sock."

Image: $50 iTunes gift card received three responses.
Web worker said: "Unable to tell what kind."
Web worker said: "Can't see that. I see it's for $50. Try moving camera out."
IQ Engines said: "Bar code."

I re-did the photo, following the Web worker's advice and positioned
the camera a little further from the card. Two responses:
Web worker said: "iTunes gift card"
IQ Engines said: "bar code."

This app can be very useful when trying to identify items. It's free
and easy to use which makes VizWiz a very good option. For more
information visit the VizWiz website, which contains a tutorial and
information about how the app was developed.

Digit-Eyes Audio Scanner and Labeler by Digital Miracles L.L.C.
Digit-Eyes ($29.99) is a bar code scanning app for the iPhone and iPod
touch. In addition to reading the Universal Product Codes (UPC) or
European Article Numbers (EAN) that appear on labels for a variety of
objects, this app also reads customized bar code labels that you
create. There is a free Lite version with limited features if you'd
like to try it before you buy it.

How To Scan
When Digit-Eyes is opened, the "Scan" button is on the screen. In
order to scan a bar code, you first need to find it, which can be
daunting because usually there is nothing to distinguish its location
on a label or product. On boxes, the codes are frequently on the
opposite end of the sides that are meant to be opened. If a can has a
wrapped label, the code is usually near the seam. If a can does not
have a tactile label, such as a soda can, it needs to be turned until
Digit-Eyes can find the code. The code on a jar with one label is
usually toward the side of the label, away from the center. If the jar
has two labels, it will be on the back label. Usually the front label
is larger. On some rectangular packages, the code is on the longer of
the two small sides. It takes some practice to get comfortable with
scanning, especially if you can't feel the bar code on the product
you're trying to identify. The Digit-Eyes website has sheets you can
print out and use for scanning practice. Unlike a laser scanner, which
can be moved quickly across an item, you need to move more slowly with
Digit-Eyes, since it uses the phone's camera.

Whether scanning an item that came with a bar code or scanning a
custom label, the technique is the same. The only difference is that
it's easier to find the code with a custom label since the label can
be felt. To begin the scanning process, double tap the "Scan" button.
The phone will make a ticking noise as it scans. Move the phone slowly
in front of the item or move the item slowly in front of the phone.
Gradually increase the distance. When Digit-Eyes locates the code, it
will beep and say what the item is. In the case of a can of soup,
Digit-Eyes accurately identified that it was Healthy Choice brand,
along with the kind of soup and the size of the can. Similarly, with a
can of Diet Coke, Digit-Eyes added the size of the can. Digit-Eyes has
an extensive database, but if it cannot recognize the code, the user
can then enter a description using the iPhone's virtual keyboard. The
next time that bar code is encountered, Digit-Eyes will recognize it.
When Digit-Eyes recognizes a bar code, there is a button you can
select to perform a Google search to get more information about the

If Digit-Eyes can't read the bar code, try another location on the
object. Frequently, manufacturers put codes in the same general area
on specific products. Your device determines how far the phone should
be from the item. For the iPhone 3, the distance should be 4 to 6
inches. For the iPhone 4 the distance is 4 to 12 inches and for the
iPod Touch it's 8 to 16 inches. This is not an exact science and
distances may need to be adjusted.

Custom Labels
Digit-Eyes allows the user to create audio labels for items that do
not already have a bar code. When scanning custom labels it's not
necessary to have an Internet connection, since the label's
description will be stored in your phone. Pre-printed bar code labels
are available from the Digit-Eyes website at a cost of $19.99 for 255
labels. A less expensive option is to buy blank labels and print your
own bar codes. Instructions on how to do this are on the Digit-Eyes
website. Set-up for this is a multi-step process and sighted help will
be needed the first time. Once you have successfully set up your
printer and created your first label, unique new bar codes can be
retrieved directly from the Digit-Eyes website and printed. Sighted
assistance will not be required since the printer has already been
set, assuming that you're using the same type of blank labels. When
the bar code is scanned, Digit-Eyes wilt prompt the user to say a name
for the label. Options are also provided to delete or re-record the
spoken information.

Text labels can also be created. You type the text on a form on the
Digit-Eyes website. The text is formatted and then you print out the
text on your own label.

A pack of 50 pre-printed, washable bar code labels, good for
identifying clothing, is also available for $19.99.

The Digit-Eyes website contains audio tutorials and clear instructions.

Although Digit-Eyes is a bit expensive and has a learning curve, it's
very useful. The ability to create custom labels is a big plus.

LookTel Recognizer by LookTel
The LookTel Recognizer ($9.99) uses a photo library and a bar code
scanner to identify objects. The photo library must be created by the
user and the app developers recommend that a person with little or no
vision have a sighted person take the photographs. I do not have any
vision and was able to successfully photograph various objects
including cans, clothing, and boxes for my photo library without
sighted assistance. Objects should be photographed on a plain
background with the maximum amount of the object in the view field.

To take a picture, double tap the "Capture Image" button. Once an item
is photographed, LookTel Recognizer will prompt you for a recorded
description. The app will indicate that the description was recorded.
Once an item is entered into the database, hold the camera in front of
the item. LookTel Recognizer will speak the recorded description. No
buttons need to be pressed. It might be necessary to slowly move the
camera until it recognizes the item and speaks its description.

LookTel Recognizer also contains a bar code scanner. To scan an item,
double tap the "Start Bar Code Scanning" button, hold your device
about 6 to 8 inches from the item, and slowly move the camera. When
the bar code is located, the app will beep and speak the item's name
and any other additional information. While Recognizer is scanning it
does not give any type of audio feedback like Digit-Eyes. To insure
the app is still scanning, check the scan button and it should say
"Stop Bar Code Scanning." When LookTel Recognizer locates the bar
code, it sounds a beep and speaks the item's information. If the bar
code isn't known, a Google search is automatically started for the bar
code's information.

LookTel Recognizer, like Digit-Eyes, named the brand, type and size of
the scanned soup can. It named the Diet Coke can and said the size.
Using Recognizer, I photographed the same animal print shirt from the
VizWiz test and the description was entered into the photo library.
Even when several unlabeled shirts were presented along with the
photographed one, the app recognized the animal print shirt.

LookTel Recognizer allows for two ways to identify items: through
photographs or using bar codes. Once an item is in the photo library,
it's convenient that scanning does not require any buttons.

The LookTel Recognizer site contains clear documentation on how to use this app.

The Bottom Line
All of these apps can be very useful for someone with a visual
impairment. Since VizWiz is free, it's worth putting on your device.
If you can afford it, I'd get both Digit-Eyes and LookTel Recognizer.
No app is perfect, but these three apps can make identification much

Lighthouse of the Big Bend
Guiding People Through Vision Loss
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Tallahassee, FL 32301
(850) 942-3658
Check out the TABI resource web page at http://acorange.home.comcast.net/TABI
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