Reading Printed Text

Reading your mail, the handwritten message on a birthday card, or cake mix directions - all can present challenges. Thankfully, there's an app for this! Several actually. And some gadgets as well. This month we explored tools for reading printed text.

August 27, 2019

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Audio Transcript


Tech It Out – Reading Printed Text

Presented by Ricky Enger

August 27, 2019

Ricky Enger: Welcome, everyone, to Tech It Out for August. This is a wonderful way to end the summer, so glad you guys have joined us for this one. We started out the summer talking about reading books and where we could find said books and taking care of that summer reading list. And we thought we'd kind of round that out by talking about how to read printed text, so that is our topic for this evening. Now before we get started, if you've never been to Tech It Out before, the way that we approach this is that we take a topic each month. We dive in a little to that topic. There's some discussion by me at the beginning, just throwing out some general information. And then we open it up and get to the fun part where you guys ask your questions and give your resources as well, so that we can all learn together.

Again, our topic for this evening is accessing printed text because printed text is everywhere. It's on product boxes. It's on those glossy little flyers that you get in the mail advertising a new restaurant opening. It's of course in newspapers, magazines, textbooks, and of course, there are greeting cards. And sometimes people write personal messages in those greeting cards. And so that too counts as printed text. It's everywhere. But how do we access it since we're not going to be able to easily look at that text and read it? Some with low vision may be able to put that under CCTVs, or magnifiers, and even then, there can be challenges with glare and the like. So how do we address this issue of getting access to all these letters that are written all over stuff around us?

Well, there are a number of different ways to do this. And I want to kind of go through some categories of how we might access this kind of thing. So let's start with hardware. Basically, what I mean by that is a piece of equipment that can do something with printed text, take an image of it, and then convert that either with software or as a standalone, into something that we can actually read in braille, or have spoken out loud. The flatbed scanner is the first thing that comes to mind. And this is a contraption that has a lid that you lift up. And you can place the thing that you want to scan underneath it. And you're placing that on a piece of glass and closing your lid, and then scanning or taking an image of what you've just placed there.

The interesting thing about flatbed scanners is that they've actually become a little harder to find than they used to be. Now you might see something that is a combination printer/scanner/copier, fax machine, and all this stuff that you really don't necessarily need, along with a scanner. And you pay for all those extra bells and whistles as well. Thankfully, there are still standalone flatbed scanners. The ones that I tend to see are the Epson scanners, as well as the Canon scanners, which I own and like quite a bit. And they're around $70, so they are still available. Those types of scanners though, they just take the image of what you're trying to read. You need a piece of software that knows what to do with that image in order to turn it into readable text. And we'll get to software in just a bit.

The other type of hardware that I can think of that is not so common anymore, but does still exist, is called the SARA from Freedom Scientific. And the interesting thing about the SARA is that it doesn't require software, at least not in the sense that you install something on your computer. With the SARA, there's no computer experience needed. This is a self-contained unit that will read text to you. You can copy things off of the unit onto a USB drive if you need to. But the idea behind the SARA is that you do things, you push a button, it starts scanning. And with another push of a button, it can read it to you. And it sounds nice and simple, and it is. It's also a bit pricier than $70, so this currently goes for $1895 to get this standalone unit. And that approach used to be far more popular than it is now. I think that we have cheaper alternatives. But for someone who really doesn't have computer experience and isn't interested in getting it, this may be still an option to access this printed text.

There is one last type of hardware called a document camera, and this is a little different than a flatbed scanner because what you do is the camera is kind of suspended over the page that you're looking at, and you're able to take a picture of it. The nice thing about document cameras is that you can put strangely shaped objects under it and have a better chance of reading than you would with a flatbed scanner. Let's say that you have a box, for example, or perhaps even a pill bottle, the box may be very large, and it's hard to close the flatbed scanner lid over it. Or the pill bottle is going to roll around on the scanner glass, so you're going to have a really hard time, excuse me, getting the kind of picture that you want.

With a document camera, though, you can place that in the way that you want, and take pictures of, again, strangely shaped objects like shampoo bottles, or pill bottles, or whatever. The Pearl document camera is an example of this. And it's about $300. This too is made by Freedom Scientific/VFO. And this one needs to be paired with a computer in order to use some software to, once you have that image, to convert that into printed text.

Let's talk about software. We've talked about all this nifty hardware. And a lot of it kind of requires this second piece. So what do we have available to us? There are a couple of things that have been developed as blindness specific products, such as OpenBook, that is by Freedom Scientific/VFO. And it pairs nicely with the Pearl camera. And it can also be used with a flatbed scanner. So this is the piece that is actually going to give you this text in a form that you could save. So it either can be used with your screen reader, or it has its own voice. And it will take this image that's from the scanner and say, "Hey, what are these letters here?" And convert that into text. It does some pretty nifty things. And if you think about: How do these software programs convert things into text? Let's say that you have a piece of paper, and the text goes all the way across, and it's just continuous text all the way across it. That seems relatively easy to work with.

But what happens when you have something like a newspaper, where there are perhaps multiple columns on the page, with images between those things? Or maybe you have a utility bill that is written in a table on the page. Now it's a little more challenging to convert those things into readable text, so that you don't get half the first column, followed by the half of the second column, rather than the software reading down the first column, and then reading down the second column. Some things do this well. And some things have a challenge with this. OpenBook does do this fairly well. It hasn't seen many updates, unfortunately, in quite some time, so I think that the folks at Freedom Scientific kind of feel like, aside from maintenance and bug fixes, it's pretty much where it's going to be. I think it's been 2012 or 2013 since it's been updated. And the cost for that is about $1000.

Kurzweil 1000 is another example of this kind of blindness specific software that can be self-voicing, or can work with a screen reader, and is going to take this text from your flatbed scanner or document camera and convert it into something that you can read. And because these are blindness specific things, they have features like being able to export into a braille file, or of course, you can save to a Word document and that kind of thing. So these are nice blindness specific things. They are, however, a little more expensive than something that is developed for the mainstream, such as ABBYY FineReader. And it's A-B-B-Y-Y FineReader. That's about $200 and does many of the same things that Kurzweil and OpenBook do, with the exception of it's not self-voicing, of course. It's just going to work with your screen reader.

One last example, and this is a blindness specific thing, is the KNFB Reader. This was originally developed for the smartphone, and eventually made its way over to Windows. For those of you on Mac, it doesn't exist there. But it is on Windows, Mac, and Android. We had a question that came in. And that question was: What is the best way to scan something glossy like an advertising, a flyer, or something like that? And I think that of all the things that we're going to discuss this evening, with smartphone apps and various other things, and hardware, the flatbed scanner tends to be the winner much of the time here. That doesn't mean that you can't scan with your smartphone or something. But I guess some of the glare issues are cut down when using a flatbed scanner and allowing that to get a more accurate read.

Let's talk a bit about iPhone apps and Android apps because there are a lot of these, and that is a great thing because competition is wonderful. Again, we'll talk about just straight up printed text, so something that has been typed out, or something that has been published. And so it could be a book, or a handout, or what have you. How are we going to read that stuff? There is Seeing AI, and this is a free app from Microsoft. And it's available on iOS only. It does some pretty cool stuff though. You can access short text, which is a feature I like to use if I'm scanning through my mail, and I want to know what's junk and what's something that I actually need to open up and pay attention to. This short text feature is nice to just give me just enough information that I can say, "Nope, don't need that, or yes, I need to set that aside and open it." It can also scan documents, so you can take a picture of the text, and it will scan those documents.

There's also a handwriting feature in Seeing AI, which handwriting has long been kind of the holy grail of optical character recognition, or OCR. And that's the term that we use to describe what happens when we convert these images into readable text. So for the longest time, it was possible to read print stuff on a product box, or something that you got in the mail. But if your mom sent you something, and thought, "Well, your son can read it, and it'll be a family thing," can read the Christmas card and so on, you weren't able to do that on your own because programs had just an impossible time reading handwritten text. So with Seeing AI, it actually does do this, as does Envision AI, which is available both for Android and iOS. This is a paid program, and it's well worth it.

And actually, for those of you listening to the archives, sorry you missed this, but for those of you who are here live, and you find the description of this program interesting, you should really rush out and get a subscription to it, be it a monthly, yearly, or lifetime subscription because right now it's 75% off. Envision is a program that does many of the things that Seeing AI does, but it does them a little differently, and in some cases, it can do them a little better. So it can read documents as well. And it can also read handwriting. It does a few other things, such as recognizing a scene, recognizing colors and currency, and some of the same things that Seeing AI does. But it's doing all of this on your device when it can. And it can recognize up to 60 different languages. So that's one thing that comes up from time to time is, you know, I have the tools to read English print. But I get stuff in Spanish, or I get stuff in Portuguese, or Polish, or whatever. What do I do?

So 60 languages, you're more than likely covered with Envision AI. And it works really very, very well, both with handwriting, scanning a document, and with this short text feature that can just give you just enough to know I need to pay attention to this, or I don't.

Voice Dream Scanner is another of my very favorite apps on this smartphone apps list. And each of these apps, again, works a little differently. This too is a paid app. And it can go on sale from time to time. I'm not sure what the current price is, but it's very much worth it. One thing I like about Voice Dream Scanner, aside from the fact that it just does a phenomenal job of recognizing text, which is what it's meant to do, is that it will actually give us some tones to guide you if you're attempting to take a picture of a document.

So one of the biggest challenges of using an app, rather than a flatbed scanner, is that on a flatbed scanner, the entire image, you're going to get a great picture of it because it's just sitting there, and it's been aligned with the corner of the glass. And it's not moving, and you're not moving. It's a very static thing, and so it's easy to get something accurate from that. When you are using a smartphone, you kind of have the challenge of: What is your lighting like? Are you holding your phone too close to the page? Are you holding it too far away from the page? Are you holding it more toward one corner than the other, rather than the center? And so it can help to kind of have some guidance with that. And Voice Dream Scanner does a nice job of that, in that it will give you tones as you're positioning the phone over the page or the object to take a picture. And the tones get softer as you have less focus, and louder the more you have in focus to take your picture. So definitely recommend Voice Dream Scanner for both iOS and Android.

There is a free app called Voice, and the thing I like about this one is that if you've ever taken a picture and tried to scan something using your smartphone, you'll probably be familiar with one thing, and that is: How do you hold the phone steady while at the same time doing this double tap to capture your image, or take the picture? You've got to tap on that button to make it happen, and sometimes the act of doing that, actually, you end up moving a little out of focus. So the thing I like about Voice, which is a nice free app, is that it will use voice recognition. So you can say, "Capture image," or just capture I believe, and it will take the picture. So now you don't have to worry about double tapping. Then you can say, "Read," and it will begin reading the thing that it's captured.

One last thing that has come up, the handwriting question was one of the biggest that was submitted beforehand. And if you're not aware, you can submit questions beforehand. You can either send me an email once you find out what the topic is, and that's Enger, E-N-G-E-R, And you can also look for, when you get the Tech It Out emails, there will be a link that allows you to submit questions ahead of time, just so that we kind of make sure that everyone's question gets answered, because sometimes there are so many, and we may run out of time.

One of the questions aside from handwriting, which was definitely a fairly frequently mentioned thing, the question is: How can I recognize things that are inside images on a website, for example? So this can be a challenge, but it is certainly possible to do. So if you're on the phone, the method to do this isn't really straightforward. And if someone wants to ask about that in our discussion, I can give a little more information about that. But again, it's not very straightforward. However, if you're on the PC, and you encounter an image, like I don't know how many of you are on Facebook, and you see image may contain text, and it's all over the place. You continually see that. And you're wondering: What is in that text?

You can use your screen reader's OCR functionality to do that. There is a convenient OCR for JAWS. And there's a process of focusing on the image that you want to recognize and pressing keystrokes and getting that image recognized.

With NVDA, you can also do this. You can move to the NVDA navigation functionality, focus on the image, and press NVDA plus R to recognize the text in that image. So there is, I think as you've noticed, a great deal of options out there to access printed text. But how do you decide which thing is right for you, and when you should use it? One thing that you might consider is: What are you reading? Because that may determine how best to read it. If you're reading a book, if you have a novel that just isn't available any other way, and you want to be able to read that, you're probably not going to want to be taking pictures of each page with your smartphone, right? And getting everything positioned just right. That sounds like a major pain.

So for that, a document camera or a flatbed scanner may be just the thing. Whereas, if you're going through and scanning your mail, or certainly if you have a handwritten letter from someone, you're going to have a lot better luck using a smartphone app. If you have a stack of mail, it kind of sounds like it would take a while to open it all up, put it down on the scanner and scan it, and do all that, when you could just hold the phone over, take a quick picture, get a general idea of what it is, and either decide that you need to take a closer look, or just keep moving on. And for handwriting, I'm certainly willing to be corrected, but I'm not aware of any PC software that is handling handwriting very well. So in that case, you're definitely going to want to look at something like a smartphone tool.

So with all of that said, and I know it's an incredible amount of information to try and take in at once, I want to remind you that there are archives. And more importantly, there are show notes. So you can go and listen to everything that's discussed on the program. And you can actually get links to where to find some of the stuff. So if you were furiously taking notes, and couldn't quite get it all, no worries. It's going to be in the show notes once this is uploaded. So we are going to go now to your questions. We have a number of people with hands raised, which is awesome. And let's start with 845 on the phone. I'm going to unmute you, and you can go ahead with your question.

Speaker 2: Hi. Good evening. Which one of those IO apps you suggest for handwriting? Which one is the best, the Seeing AI, or Envision, which one is the best one for handwriting stuff?

Ricky Enger: In my opinion, Envision has done a better job of handwriting, or I should say a more consistent job with handwriting. Seeing AI is really nice because it's free. And when it works, it works really well. Sometimes for me, I will have to close the app and open it again to get it to read anything, be it handwritten, text, or even just short text from any kind of document. So I really like Envision.

Speaker 2: Envision, okay.

Ricky Enger: But they're definitely worth playing around with. And the cool thing about Envision is that you can get a month really cheaply right now and see how it works for you. And since Seeing AI is free, you can play with that all you want and get an idea of just how well that's going to work for the handwriting that you're wanting to read.

Speaker 2: Sorry about this question. It's kind of a stupid question. But I never heard of this app. I'm kind of new to this. I never heard of these app devices before. So all I have to do is go to the app store and pay for the one that I want and download, and get the one free, and pay for the other one, that's all I have to do. So it's available in the app store?

Ricky Enger: Yes, that's right. So for Seeing AI, you'll just go to ... Are you on an iOS device?

Speaker 2: Yes. I have an iPhone 7.

Ricky Enger: Great. So for seeing AI, you can just search for Seeing, and then the letters A and I. And the same thing is true for-

Speaker 2: Oh so it's not the word spelled eye. It's just an I. Okay. I got you. So it wasn't an eye. Okay.

Ricky Enger: Yep. It stands for artificial intelligence. And so that's what is being used to kind of recognize all of the handwriting and things. The same is true for Envision, if you'll do a search for Envision, and then space, and then the letters A and I. You'll find that. And for you guys on Android, Envision is available for you as well. But not Seeing AI on Android.

Speaker 2: Can I ask how much is this Envision right now? You said it's on sale.

Ricky Enger: I don't recall exactly how much it is, but it's 75% off. And it's reasonably priced to begin with, so you're not going to pay a lot at all.

Speaker 2: Okay. All right. Thank you very much. And the one that you said also about the Voice is the same thing. You just type voice on my search, and it's going to show up that-

Ricky Enger: Yes. And my suggestion on Voice specifically, and it is a free app, there are a lot of things that begin or end with the word voice in the app store. So to kind of narrow it down, you can type Voice, and then space OCR, which stands for optical character recognition. And that will narrow it way down for you.

Speaker 2: OCR, perfect. Thank you so much.

Ricky Enger: Thank you. All right. We are going to go next to, again, on the phone we have 603 on the phone. You're up.

Speaker 3: I love your seminars. They're terrific. I just wanted to comment that the Voice Dream Scanner is usually $5.99, which is a real bargain. And sometimes it's on sale for $3.99. And the one feature that I really like about it is that you can either listen to the document, but you can also look at the page and move your finger around the page, and it will say whatever is under your finger. So if you remember seeing a phone number or something in the document that you want to go back and find, you can actually do it just by moving your finger around the screen.

Ricky Enger: That's a great point. And Voice Dream Scanner, we were actually just chatting a little about this before we began the program. And we were talking about how much we loved Voice Dream Scanner.

Speaker 3: Oh, I do.

Ricky Enger: And just the number of things that it can scan. Some things are really challenging to scan. I was actually able to scan my state ID with it, and that's a fairly small piece of plastic. And of course, it's plastic, so it's nice and glossy and reflective. And Voice Dream Scanner was able to scan that with no problem.

Speaker 3: Oh, I love it. I love it. I've got the KNFB Reader also. But I actually don't use that anymore. I use the Voice Dream Scanner, and I like it so much more. And of course, the price is much better. The other comment I was going to make is with the Seeing AI app, there's also channels that are available that are also awesome, where you can do barcode scanning, currency identification, there's light level indicators, color identifiers. You can take pictures of, for example, take a picture of a room, and it will describe to you what's in the room. There's so many other options that are also available on it. And it's just wonderful because it's free.

Ricky Enger: Exactly. Yeah. Seeing AI is great for that kind of thing. And Envision does similar stuff too in that it has its channels. So it's so good to have all of these different options available. And I remember needing a hardware money identifier. And honestly, I still use that just because it can sometimes be faster. But if I didn't have that hardware money identifier, using the Seeing AI app to look at my currency works beautifully.

Speaker 3: Of course, there's also the iNote (iBill) from the Treasury Department too, but yeah.

Ricky Enger: That exists as well. It's interesting just how many things are available and trying to decide. Well, which one's going to work for this? And which ones are ... My computer just went crazy.

Speaker 3: Oh, it's wonderful.

Ricky Enger: Yes, okay.

Speaker 3: Thank you.

Ricky Enger: So much. We are going to go next to ... Got lots of questions on the phone tonight, which is awesome. So we have 414, you're up next. 414 on the phone.

Speaker 4: Hello. I've been using various types of Kurzweil machines since 1989. And I've been pleased with them, but the scanner that I've had for a couple or so years now makes a noise level, a pitch, a sound, that by the time I finish my mail, I'm really not happy. Can you recommend a scanner that does not make as much noise, or that has a lower pitch sound to the processing?

Ricky Enger: Wow. That is a great question. And when you said that, I immediately knew what you were talking about, unfortunately because they all tend to sound very similar. And I don't know of one that is less noisy. Anyone recommend a nice quiet scanner? The thing that you might consider, and this does have its own drawbacks, is to use a document camera instead of a scanner. The challenge with a document camera is placing things under it in just the right way. But it is much, much quieter. And you wouldn't have to hold your phone, so you wouldn't need to use a smartphone. The camera basically is raised up over the piece of paper and takes a picture of what's underneath it. And so that might be a nice quieter option for you, because I know exactly what you're talking about. But I can't immediately think of something that is less noisy.

Speaker 4: Is the SARA also one that makes a noise then?

Ricky Enger: Yes. It's going to make that similar noise. And what this is, they call it the scanner head, I believe, and so it's moving across under the glass and moving back and forth line by line to get a very clear picture of what is being placed on top of the glass. So anything that you get that uses this similar technology is going to have a similar sound, unfortunately.

Speaker 5: Can I make a comment?

Ricky Enger: Absolutely.

Speaker 5: I am so sorry. The SARA CE, it's a document camera. It only makes a camera shutter sound. It doesn't make that noise.

Ricky Enger: Okay. So the CE is not the actual scanner, it's a document camera. Excellent.

Speaker 4: Thank you.

Ricky Enger: Yeah. So that's $18.95 right now. And it is a standalone, probably like the Kurzweil reading machines that you initially used.

Speaker 4: Yes.

Ricky Enger: So that's definitely something to look into. And if you're wanting something that will hook just to your computer, you can check out the Pearl camera, which is also from Freedom Scientific. All right.

Speaker 4: Thank you very much for all those suggestions.

Ricky Enger: Absolutely. That will give you a couple of directions to look at. Good luck. All right. Let's go to Cheyenne. You have a question.

Cheyenne: I actually had a couple of comments. One is you can actually get the Voice Dream Suite. It comes with reader, writer and scanner. I believe it's 30 bucks on the app store. And I've used reader and writer. I haven't played with scanner yet. I plan to. But I use reader and writer and I love them a lot. And the voice tracers are very good. My second comment is I suggest have more than one reading tool because you might find one does one task really good one day, and the other one does good the next day. It just kind of depends on the task, and also the lighting and all that kind of stuff. So don't delete your KNFB Readers or get rid of your scanners yet.

Ricky Enger: That's a great point. I actually have a folder full of OCR apps. And I tend to have my favorites. But I will occasionally use KNFB Reader just because it can sometimes do a better job of recognizing documents with columns than some of these others. And I like Voice Dream Scanner because it tends to scan pretty much any type of text anywhere. But sometimes, Envision is the thing that I want, or Seeing AI is what I want. So Cheyenne is definitely right. If you're collecting these [crosstalk], keep them. Yeah. There's no need to get rid of them unless you're running out of space on your phone. So thank you for that.

Cheyenne: Sure.

Ricky Enger: Let's go next to Tina Soul, who has a question.

Tina Soul: I have a comment. For the lady who was using the Kurzweil equipment, the scanners, and needing a new scanner, my husband was suggesting the HP line of scanners. He has a 4520, and it's pretty quiet as its scanning.

Ricky Enger: Excellent. So that's the HP Hewitt-Packard 4520. And for those kinds of scanners, you're probably going to find them in an Office Depot, Staples, Best Buy, those kinds of places.

Tina Soul: Right.

Ricky Enger: Yep.

Tina Soul: And you can get them online. He said Amazon probably is one place.

Ricky Enger: Yeah. Good deal.

Tina Soul: He just wanted to suggest that.

Ricky Enger: Great. I appreciate that. Thank you, guys.

Tina Soul: They are easy to set up, and HP has made that process very accessible.

Ricky Enger: That's always nice because sometimes you can get these scanners where the scanner is fine, but the software or getting it going is not a perfectly straightforward thing to do. So great to know. Let's go... Sorry about that. We'll move to the phone. Let's go to 604 on the phone.

Dennis: Hi. Can you hear me?

Ricky Enger: Yep.

Dennis: Okay. First of all, this is Dennis up in Canada. And I want to mention that our Canadian currency has got braille on it, in case you don't know. Some people don't know. It's a full braille cell. As the bill is facing you, it's the full braille cell for $5. Two braille cell for $10. Three for a $20. Four for $20, or for $50. And two braille cell from the left side to the center for a $100 bill. So I just wanted to mention that in case you run into Canadian money. But there is braille cell on it.

Ricky Enger: Yeah. I wish we had that in the US. And it's funny that pretty much everyone who isn't in the US says, "You really don't have it great here because our money is easy to recognize," whether it's the way Canadians have done it with the braille cells, or in some countries, the bills are different sizes, and so they're immediately recognizable. And for us, we have to stick with the money identifiers.

Dennis: Yeah. My question is, I'm kind of new with the visual impairment gadget stuff. And I'm looking for something that will scan and read stuff for a multiple purpose, that is not too expensive and does work good, and it will last me a long time. So I don't know if you have any suggestion and stuff like that.

Ricky Enger: Can you talk about the kinds of things that you want to read? So like mail and books and ...

Dennis: Yes. Yes, exactly, besides using audio books, or Bookshare, or something that is you just reach for it and it's right there. And also, recently I acquired a ScripTalk. I don't know if you heard about that.

Ricky Enger: I'm not familiar with that.

Dennis: Oh, it reads prescriptions. It's out of Florida.

Ricky Enger: Oh, ScripTalk. Yes.

Dennis: Yeah. ScripTalk. So I got that, that's great, so anyway. But I was wondering about something like for a scanner that reads stuff, or for a quick access that would be easy to read a can of soup or something. I don't know if you have any suggestions for me. Appreciate it very much. Thank you.

Ricky Enger: Yeah. No problem. And that's a great question. And so when it comes to scanning cans and bottles and things like that, I would actually recommend a bar code scanner over one of the options that we've been talking about this evening, like the flatbeds and so on. You can kind of do it sometimes, depending on how the device is shaped with some of these things that we've mentioned before. But I think my suggestions would either be if you're using a smartphone to investigate some of the apps that we've mentioned here. And if you're not, which is perfectly fine, you may want to look at something like a flatbed scanner with some software, such as Kurzweil, or OpenBook, or KNFB reader. Those are some examples of what you might use with a scanner.

And the scanners are relatively inexpensive. And then when you combine those with a piece of software, that's where things get a little different. Although, KNFB Reader, I believe is $99. So you could do this for $200 or under, just as a place to start with a flatbed scanner and the KNFB Reader. That'll give you some places to start investigating, in any case.

Speaker 9: Ricky?

Dennis: Thank you.

Ricky Enger: Yes, go ahead.

Speaker 9: When I was at the convention, and I went to the Google booth, they showed the Lookout app, and they were actually bringing up soda cans, and they were reading all the information that the cans had, but it did not input the glare [inaudible] cylindrical.

Ricky Enger: Yeah.

Speaker 9: [inaudible] spend $300 because of the Pixel 3a.

Ricky Enger: Yeah. Exactly. And of course, and I really want to do that, I want to get a Google Pixel and use this app on it. For those who are not familiar, the Lookout app is a little similar to the concept behind Seeing AI and Envision, where you can recognize objects or read text on these objects. The only problem is it's only available on Google Android phones, and a specific Google Android phone, so that's the Pixel. But if you're an Android fan, and you're looking to upgrade your phone, and you don't yet have a Pixel, that's definitely a selling point to check that out.

Speaker 10: Ricky?

Ricky Enger: Yes.

Speaker 10: Can I make a comment on the iPhone scanners?

Ricky Enger: Yeah, go ahead.

Speaker 10: Okay. I've seen, I don't know what it's called, but I think it may be called a Danny Boy. And it looks like a picture frame type thing. And you can put your phone on there, and it'll hold it in place. And your document goes underneath. It basically converts your phone into a camera scanner, kind of like the SARA CE.

Ricky Enger: Yes. I'm so glad you brought that up. The one that I'm thinking of is called the Fopydo or Fopydoe, or I have no idea how to pronounce it. But it will be in the show notes, and it will be spelled correctly, so my pronunciation won't matter. But that's exactly what it does. So for the challenge of using your phone as a document camera and holding it steady, this is kind of a scan stand, I guess, is the more technical term for it. And you place your phone in it, and so you're able to position it above what you're hoping to read. And it's pretty cool, and it's actually pretty inexpensive as well. I'm glad you brought that up. Thank you. All right. We're going to go to the next question on the phone, which is 917, 917.

Gary Jordan: Morning. Gary Jordan, and I was listening to you guys talking about the Kurzweil. The downside is, I've seen one of those years and years ago, and the downside of those things, those are big. And I didn't think they still make those things.

Ricky Enger: Interestingly enough, yeah. The old Kurzweil reading machine, they don't make those anymore. I guess the closest equivalent is the SARA. But they do make the Kurzweil software, so now you would put it on your computer with a document camera or a scanner. But you're right. Those things are huge, right, back in the day?

Gary Jordan: Yeah. I was at the Foundation for the Junior Blind. I was in their adult ed program at the time in the computer lab in '96 when I saw that thing. They're huge. They got a whole bunch of built in noises, all this stuff. Some of them are pretty good, especially for the time.

Ricky Enger: Yeah. And it actually had a patented thing that you would place your book with the spine kind of where it folded closed or open, you would place it on this edge, and so it was actually called the reading edge. And you would place that portion of the book on this reading edge. And it would allow the remainder of the pages to lie flat. And you could scan books. And for those of you who have Bookshare, these kinds of reading machines were used quite a bit to scan books and make them available on Bookshare before the publishers were a little more open about providing those things. So really thankful that those actually existed.

Gary Jordan: Yeah. I didn't know that. How do you spell Envision, that one app you talked?

Ricky Enger: Yeah. It's E-N, and then V-I-S-I-O-N, so E-N vision, and then space AI.

Gary Jordan: And what's the name of that thing that you use to put your phone into it and you turn it into that document scanner thing?

Ricky Enger: Yeah.

Gary Jordan: What was that called?

Ricky Enger: That's called the Fopydo, and I don't have the spelling of that right in front of me. But I'll ask you to check out the show notes, and there will be a link right to it, so you can go and buy it if you like. It's under $50, and I think it's actually well under $50.

Gary Jordan: That sounds cool.

Ricky Enger: Yeah.

Gary Jordan: Okay. That was the problem. Then you could adjust it. Yeah. And then when you double tap too, [inaudible] then you can double tap.

Ricky Enger: Thank you.

Gary Jordan: Thank you very much.

Ricky Enger: All right. Let's go to V. Baldwin.

V. Baldwin: Hi. I wanted to know ... Let's see. How do I put this? How much privacy we have with the documents we're scanning.

Ricky Enger: That's an excellent question. And I think that's something that you want to look at, and you want to read about with the apps themselves. So if you want that maximum amount of privacy, then you're probably looking at something that is software on your computer, where it's self-contained. And as you scan it, it's only being recognized using the software on your computer, rather than uploading that to the cloud or whatever. Now for any of these apps, they all say, "Hey, we're not hanging on to your data. We're not doing anything nefarious with it." And I think it's up to the individual as to whether you're going to trust that company and believe that they mean what they say.

I don't know right off the top of my head which of the apps that I've mentioned are doing things strictly in the cloud, and which are doing things right on the phone. So that's one thing that for any of these apps, and for anything that you download from the app store, be aware of that. And so the terminology that you're looking for is “processes documents right on your phone, for easier, faster, better,” blah, blah, blah. Or “processes documents in the cloud for easier, faster, better,” blah, blah, blah.

Whatever thing they've chosen, they believe it's the right thing. But you just want to look to see if it's being processed on your phone, or if it's being processed in the cloud. And of course, beyond the privacy concern, you have to think about: What if you want to scan something when you're out and about, and you have limited cellular data that you don't want to use? You want to know what that app is doing, and if it's trying to pull from cellular data that you don't really have, or not. And I'm sorry I couldn't be more specific as far as which apps do which scanning where. But they do mention in their descriptions, and we'll have each of these apps in the show notes that you can take a look at. So for the smartphone apps, that is a concern. For software on the PC, it's generally not. Generally, that processing is done right on the computer.

V. Baldwin: Okay. And I did want to mention, probably everyone knows already, but that Aira is offering the free five-minute program.

Ricky Enger: Yes.

V. Baldwin: And I think they're supposed to be bonded to not share that information with anyone else.

Ricky Enger: That's correct.

Speaker 13: I'm sorry. Can you repeat that? I apologize. What is free?

V. Baldwin: Aira, it's A-I-R-A. And you use your camera on your phone for up to five minutes with another human being that's been trained. And they're, I believe, bonded not to share that information with other people.

Ricky Enger: Yes. They are. And Aira can answer, not only can they read your mail, or texts that you need to have read, but they can do things like look for the expiration date on a gallon of milk, or any of these little household tasks. Is there mold on my bread? That kind of thing.

Speaker 13: Oh, like a Be My Eyes such a thing.

Ricky Enger: It is like Be My Eyes. The difference is that with Be My Eyes, they are volunteers, and with Aira, they have been trained and are paid to do what they do. So there are advantages, and it's great to have both of them.

Speaker 13: Okay. Thank you.

V. Baldwin: And back to the Danny Boy, which is the floppy whatever you were mentioning, it's available through

Ricky Enger: Oh, fantastic. And so again, I will mention the show notes because all of this stuff will definitely be there. If you have things that you either won't able to ask this evening, or just resources that you want to mention, because we have reached the end of our time, please do send me an email at Enger, E-N-G-E-R And I'll either respond and answer your question if I have the answer, or if it's a resource that you'd like to have placed in the show notes, I will certainly do that. And a lot of people will write in after the fact, and so much of the material that you see in the show notes actually does come from the community, and that's a wonderful thing. Again, we have reached the end of our hour, so sorry to you guys who weren't able to get your questions in, but I really appreciate all of you joining me. And I hope you'll do so again next month. Thank you all so much for being here.