Syrup Isn’t Lemmon Juice: Finding Bottle Labels With Various Free Apps #TapTapSee #BeSpecular #SeeingAI #BeMyEyes
By Jessica Hodges
Pecan pie is delicious, the day is young, and my oven is hot. Music is playing, and the filling for my pie is almost done. I am content. Then I taste the filling, and immediately reach for a glass of water. I was such an idiot. What I thought had been corn syrup had actually been lemon juice, which doesn’t go with pecans at all! This wouldn’t happen if I was more organized or took the time to read bottle labels. Sighing, I throw out the filling, and start again. This time, when I get to the corn syrup, I pull out my phone.
There are many different free services designed to let a blind person know what something is. Some of the results are very instantaneous, and some take a minute or two. Some rely on you to take the picture, while some connect you to someone. Flicking through my phone screen, I think through my options.
Tap tap see is an app that has been around for a long time. Currently free, the app helps you focus by small sound cues. When you hear one, the camera has focus on something, and you can take the picture. With it’s simple, five button interface, it’s a good one to reach for if you want something simple, like product identification, the color of something, etc. I consider it the roughest, quickest app to use, like a small broom. The answers are part computer generated, part human answers, so you could get something as specific as, “Bottle of Corn Syrup,” or as vague as, “Bottle on Countertop.” Still, because of its simplicity and quick answering system, this is often the first thing I turn to. Today it fails me however, as all it says is “Plastic bottle,”
Bespecular is often next on my list. All human, I sometimes consider it the next step up from tap tap see, It allows you to take a picture, or a group of pictures, and record or type a question. That question is then pushed via notification to sighted volunteers, who either record or type the answer. You can get as many replies as you like, it isn’t limited to one. You get a notification each time someone replies to your question. Although I have not used this app as much as the others, getting a response can take just a couple of minutes. This app does require an account, but they’ve never spammed me. While this could probably work, it gives no guidance on taking a picture, and it seems a little more in depth than I want to go for a simple bottle identification, so I move on.
Seeing AI is usually where I go after tap tap see for this sort of thing. A friend described this as a Swiss army knife of an app, and I couldn’t agree more. They’ve split the various functions of the app into different channels you can activate via a picker at the bottom of the screen. That app would almost beg for a blog post of its own, since it can also identify money, try and describe scenes and faces, read documents, and more. The two channels I want today are the short text channel and the product channel. The short text channel acts as a scanner, constantly looking in front of the phone for any text it can read. It acts sort of like a glance, without having to take a picture in frame. This is useful for reading things off the sides of things, which sometimes can get you enough to know what an object is. The product channel acts as a barcode scanner, beeping helpfully when it gets close to a barcode. The faster it beeps, the closer you are. Once the barcode is detected, a window pops up with all the info on whatever you were scanning. When using the short text feature, I was able to get something about glucose, which told me I indeed had the syrup.
If none of these apps had worked, I could have used be my eyes. Be my eyes is an app that places free video calls between blind people, and sighted volunteers. The connections are usually quick, and the people connected usually have a good grasp of English. This is usually a fast, and failsafe way to get something done, so if I have several things I need, this is often what I use. They now have over eight hundred thousand volunteers, and they’ve grown a lot since their inception. Because it’s a video connection, it can have a variety of use cases when you need an answer fast. I’ve already found the bottle though, so I didn’t need to pull this app.
Having located the bottle in question, I quickly finished the filling for my pie, and texted a friend saying the pie was in the oven, and sorry for the delay. She called, and I explained about the lemon juice mix up.
“You know you could have just tasted it, right?”
I felt so, so stupid! Of course, lemon juice and syrup don’t taste at all the same, and it could have saved me time, not to mention my phone’s battery. She reminded me that though there are a plethora of apps in existence, sometimes you don’t need them. But I hope my silliness at least got you to think about the different apps, and how they can be used. There are many, many more that I didn’t include in this article, so it’s always good to do some research on your own and find what works for you. But whether you’re identifying different cans, trying to figure out which shirt says, “God bless all Unicorns,” or you’re just trying to figure out what button does what on the newfangled coffee machine you brought home, I hope you can better find the app you need.
Descriptions of the Apps:
TapTapSee is designed to help the blind and visually impaired identify objects they encounter in their daily lives.
Simply double tap the screen to take a photo of anything, at any angle, and hear the app speak the identification back to you (Note: Spoken identification requires VoiceOver to be turned on).
TapTapSee helps the blind and visually impaired become more independent in their day-to-day activities.
TapTapSee has been a huge hit with users taking thousands of pictures per-day. It has garnered multiple podcasts, reviews, as well as positive feedback within the community.
* Rotor reader
* Flash toggle
* Auto-focus notification
* Identify images from your Camera Roll
* Repeat last image identification
* Share identification via text, email, or social media
* Barcode reader
* iPhones: 3G and up
* iPod Touch
BeSpecular is the best way to do a good deed so that even when you have a busy schedule, you can help someone who’s blind. As a blind/visually impaired person, you can ask text/voice questions and receive quick replies that are friendly and helpful.
Do you want to help/volunteer in your community, but you don’t have the time?
Helping your community should be simple, convenient, and fun.
Now you can help someone who’s blind by using your smartphone. You can spend a few seconds listening to the question, look at the picture(s), and reply with a friendly voice note or text message.
-Use your eyes and intuition which no computer can replace,
-Help blind or visually impaired people from around the world,
-Learn what it’s like to live blind,
-Do a good deed and feel amazing,
-Make a real contribution to someone else’s life.
Are you blind or visually impaired & need that extra little bit of help?
You should be able to conveniently ask your questions and know that someone who’s sighted will happily and quickly be able to help.
Now you’re able to personalize your questions to find out exactly what you’re looking for. You can upload or take photos and ask with a voice/text message. You’ll receive as many friendly and helpful replies as you need.
-Ask your question and receive your reply shortly,
-Use the app in various situations, e.g. getting more detailed descriptions of items you’d like to buy online, read the ad insert you found in the mail, understand what’s going on with your computer when your Screen Reader won’t work, re-live memories with beautiful descriptions of your photographs, etc,
-Remain on a first-name basis and not have to reveal any personal info,
-Ask as many questions as often as you’d like
Access visual assistance on demand, if you are blind or visually impaired, or lend your eyes to the blind or visually impaired if you are sighted.
Be My Eyes is all about connecting blind or visually impaired with sighted volunteers, to help the blind or visually impaired lead more independent lives. Benefiting and contributing to the community is easy.
Blind or visually impaired users can request help from a sighted volunteer, who will receive a notification. As soon as the first sighted user accepts the request, a live audio-video connection will be established between the two parts. The sighted helper can now assist the blind or visually impaired, through the video connection from the blind or visually impaired user’s rear-facing camera.
As a sighted user, you are part of the big Be My Eyes volunteer-network, so don’t worry about leaving a blind person hanging, if you are not able to answer a request. We will simply forward the request and find the next available volunteer.
The blind or visually impaired user can need help with anything from knowing the expiry date on the milk, to making sure that their clothes match.
– Live audio-video connection between blind or visually impaired and sighted users
– 90 % of calls answered within 30 seconds
– Add the languages you speak in settings
o An easy way to make a difference for blind or visually impaired people
Seeing AI is a free app that narrates the world around you. Designed for the blind and low vision community, this ongoing research project harnesses the power of AI to open up the visual world and describe nearby people, text and objects.
Optimized for use with VoiceOver, the app enables you to recognize:
o Short Text – Speaks text as soon as it appears in front of the camera.
o Documents – Provides audio guidance to capture a printed page, and recognizes the text, along with its original formatting.
o Products – Scans barcodes, using audio beeps to guide you; hear the name, and package information when available. (works with iPhone 6 and later)
o People – Saves people’s faces so you can recognize them, and get an estimate of their age, gender, and emotions.
o Scenes (early preview) – Hear an overall description of the scene captured.
o Currency – Recognizes currency notes. (Requires iOS 11)
o Color – Identifies color.
o Handwriting – Reads handwritten text like in greeting cards
o Light – Generates an audible tone corresponding to the brightness in the surroundings.
o Images in other apps – Just tap “Share” and “Recognize with Seeing AI” to describe images from Mail, Photos, Twitter, and more.
Seeing AI is built to help you achieve more by leveraging the power of the cloud and artificial intelligence. As the research progresses, more channels may be added.
Check out tutorials with this YouTube playlist: http://aka.ms/SeeingAIPlaylist
Visit http://SeeingAI.com for more details
Recently honored with Helen Keller Achievement Awards from American Foundation for the Blind.
Available in 35 countries including the U.S., Canada, European Union, U.K., Australia, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore. Coming soon to more countries.
Languages supported – English
Supported on iPhone 5C, 5S and later; best performance with iPhone 6S, SE and later models.