Monday, April 07, 2008 offers potential for free, portable OCR

I’m not certain how well this would work, but there is a web-based application that may provide the same functionality to blind people that the KNFB Reader Mobile provides. And, if it works like it supposed to, portable optical character recognition (OCR) can be had for free!

Is an innovative tool that allows a person to take a picture with their cell phone camera, send it to ScanR, and, within seconds, receive an email with an attached pdf document with OCR performed on the image. (ScanR uses the ABBYY OCR software, so if you’re familiar with that OCR engine, then you have an idea on what to expect as far as the quality of the OCR work.)

Because this service employs some of the common tools available on today’s smart phones, which are a requirement to run either of the commercially available mobile screen readers, this seems like an ideal fit for blind people who use these phones. It employs digital photography, email, and the reading of PDF documents. is a subscription service, but does have a limited free service, allowing a user to submit five images a month at no cost. Free documents are returned with the ScanR logo on them. The logo is removed when subscribing to the subscription program. After all, while the fee costs money, it is still very reasonable-- only $3 per month or $30 a year.

I’m interested to know how well this works for blind people. Perhaps it would be the ideal solution for a restaurant menu, or a handout at a meeting. Being that I don’t have a data plan with my mobile phone service, I’m not in a position to personally try this. If you or somebody you know does and you’re willing to try this, I’d love to know how well the service works. If so, please leave a comment.

If it works as well as it is presented, when compared to the cost of the latest model of the KNFB Reader on a Nokia N95, with its $2000+ price tag, the fee-based ScanR offers a significant value.

Additional reading:
I originally learned about this service through an article in the
New York Times.
There are also a couple of good write-ups from last year in the
Wall Street Journal

No comments: