LookTel's New Recognizer App Promises Fast and Accurate Object Recognition for Blind iPhone Users

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

LookTel have just released a new app that promises fast and accurate recognition of everyday items, such as cans, packages, ID or credit cards and DVDs.

LookTel Recognizer enables you to store images of objects in a library or database. You then simply point your iPhone's camera at an object and the phone will instantly recognize and describe the item. A barcode scanner is also included to provide additional labeling help.

LookTel stress that users with severe vision impairments or blindness will require sighted assistance to create the initial image library. The image library must be setup before LookTel Recognizer can be used to identify objects. Once the library exists, less and less time is required of a sighted person, as you will find Recognizer can already identify most items that are used daily.

One neat feature of Recognizer is that it allows you to backup and export your image library via E-Mail. This can be used to restore your library to a new device, but it also makes it possible to share image libraries with other users of the app.

It's been suggested that AppleVis could provide a mechanism for people to upload and share LookTel Recognizer image libraries. This certainly sounds like a great idea, and something that we will add to the site if there is enough interest. So, please add a comment if you think this is a good idea and something that you might make use of.

If you're already using this app, also be sure to add a comment to let us all know what you think of it.

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#1 Great idea, but

Sharing Recognizer libraries is a great idea. However, I see an issue that users of second hand libraries should be aware of. If I had a brand that does different kinds of chocolate, say vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut and if my Recognizer library contained entries for caramel and vanilla only, then Recognizer might still identify the hazelnut, which is not in my library, as either vanilla or caramel, because the packaging could look similar as it’s the same brand. So if we share libraries, we need to be aware of the fact that people might misidentify items when they try to identify items that are not in the library. I think a sharing facility would have to be set up in a way that lets people know exactly what they are importing.

#2 looktell recogniser

Think the idea ofhaving a library would be good but,as has already been said, the items in any library of this nautre would have to be submitted very accurately so that variations of similar products/objects could be determined by recogniser. By the way, can items be recognised out of their original context?

#3 Bad thing that we depend on sighted persons

Hi, Wel I do have lots of respect for people developing nice and handy apps for us. It's definately a great plesure. But I think that the requirement for sighted help at least for me makes it almost useless . They should focus on helping us doing this our selves. Cans bottles and such can be hard to distinguish from one another, but honestly a blind who's born as a blind person has his or her own styles of ordering things. so let's say I buy 2 cans with tomatos. one with just plane tomatos, and one with origano and basilikum. Why shouldnt I be able to photograf these myself?

#4 this would be awesome and I

this would be awesome and I agree to those who'se comments are posted above. If you're shure that you've got the can in focus, then you don't need sighted help. look tel has given some great tips also on http://www.looktel.com/recognizer

#5 Shared libraries for recognizer

Club AppleVis Member

I would love to see this. It seems to me that without a huge pre-built like IQEngines database recognizer isn't as useful as it could be.

#6 LookTel library

I certainly would love to share libraries. I personally don't have a lot of opportunity to get sighted help in beginning a library which is the only draw back to this app. Certainly, $9.99 is a lot easier to spend than the money for other devices on the market and not iPhone related.

#7 Library sharing.

I think that library sharing would be a great idea. Neither my boyfriend nor I have any vision, and access to sighted help is limited. I'm sure many other individuals are in similar situations. The ability to download and import other users' libraries would transform LookTel Recognizer from an app that has some promise to a must-have app.

#8 Upon reflection

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Having listened to how people think they will get the most use and value from this app, I have to admit that the ability to share libraries now seems a lot less useful than it did 24 hours ago. It's become clear that most user scenarios are likely to be so specific, that there will be very little overlap. This suggests that most of the objects in any image library will be of no real use or value to anybody else. With no option to select which parts of a library to share or import, I'm not convinced that many people will actually make use of this feature. Looking at some of the potential uses for this app that have been mentioned, there might be objects in a library that people simply wouldn't want to share, such as bank cards. Other images, such as the contents of somebody's wardrobe, have no use to anybody else. Another suggested use for the app is taking images of your locale, such as the store fronts in the local mall, but at best these are still only going to be of value to a handful of people. So what could be in an image library that might be useful to others? The first thing that comes to mind is images that somebody has taken of the contents of their pantry. That's got to save time and effort, right? Not when you stop to consider how many grocery lines your typical store carries, and that we don't all shop in that same store, and in fact that we don't even all shop in the same country. Well, I'm sure that you can see where I am going with that thought process. The chances of there being many common items in the pantries of Recognizer users has to be very low, yes? So, that leaves me struggling to think what a Recognizer library could contain that would make it worth sharing. I can see it possibly working if you share with somebody you know, and who knows about your everyday life. But sharing as part of a global community, I'm really struggling to see any scenarios in which this is likely to be worthwhile. At best you might get a couple of items that save you from having to add them yourself, at worst you fill your iPhone with images of objects that you will never encounter. Please feel free to point me at what I might be missing

#9 let me understand: this

Club AppleVis Member

let me understand: this Recognizer, is a talking labeler, it has no OCR ability, isn't it? you take a photo then it prompts you to describe the object so, when you point the camera device on the object, it reads your description. Have I understood it right? It is a substitute of available talking labelers, which use paper labels to attach to object, this needs no label. right? Other thing: I do not understand this fact of library, of needing assistance to create a library. Well, personally I have no photos on the default iPhone library, so when I took a picture this morning for recognizer, it just went OK! if I do not create a proper library and take pictures to my default one. And afterwards someone takes a photo of me in another situation not regarding object recognition, so, without any description. What happens? and what must a sighted person do for me, for creating a library? I do not know how it works!

#10 I kind of get the purpose of the app, but ...

It just seems a little ... well, I don't know. It's hard to explain. You have to have someone tell you what you're going to be taking a picture of, so that the next time you recognize the item, the app knows what to tell you about the item. It just seems a little clunky for my taste. I can understand the advantages of recognition happening on the phone as apposed to over the internet, like other apps such as oMoby, that being that you don't have to use data when you're out and about. But to me, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages, the main one being that there's no local database to pull descriptions of things from, not to mention directions. This havingg been said, what is the point of having a bar code reader function in this app? I'm confused by that. Thanks, Shersey

#11 Regarding David's "upon reflection" comment.

You made a valid point in your previous comment David. Most items in a shared library probably wouldn't be of use to most people. It wouldn't be worth the effort of sharing libraries if we might only benefit from a few immages from each one. If or when LookTel chooses to invest in an external barcode database, I'll be happy to purchase the app. Until then, however, I'll stick with Digit-Eyes, as clunky as it may be.

#12 You can do it yourself

You can use this app on your own, as long as you know what you are poitning at that's the rub. I got it this morning and have been unable to get it to work on more than one item, the first item I tried. Nothing happens eah time I try to use it now.

#13 Top 3 Must Have App

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

After with some time playing with this app. I have to strongly disagree with a lot of people on here. I believe this idea is absolutely benefitial for those that want an app to help you identify things. First, to clearrify things up. You photos on your iPhone is seperated from this particular app. The app itself has it own photo library for say. Really, it is a Item library. This Item database is what you have to populate. So any Image capture you create in using the LookTel Recognizer is then required for you to speak of anything you want to say for this particular image. Now after doing this it is now an item in your Looktel REcognizer database. Second, the time it takes for a person having to label each items is the taking you the same time with this app. So I don't understand why it is such a big deal that it doesn't contain any items. Each item you label is specific for you need to be labeled. This is simply the same concept. What make this a step above everything else is that it is photo specific. I can't label a store front but I can use this app for that reason. Thus, the possiblity of having no need for anymore labels is staggering if you really think about it. No more bar codes. To answer the question above no this is not an OCR by any means. This identify by the image you create and define by your own choice. If you haven't already you might find my podcast of some interests. Lastly, I must agree that the barcode scanner portion of this app is a bit weak at this time. Remember this is the first version of the LookTel Recognizer. So I can expect to have many version with new improvements of each and every update. This is no doubt my Top 3 must have app if you are totally blind. I believe to use Viz Wiz to use in conjunction with this app to help you in to identify things without a sighted person on hand. Even though I highly recommend a sighted person helping you instead so that they can make sure each image is taken correctly without having any kind of error. So thus giving the ability to have an app that can give you real time scanning with a real time results. No fuss in having to wait for an answer from a server or a live person can be quite useful. There are certainly many time I find myself in a place that have no reception for internet or wi-fi connection. So this will come in handy. So that is my two cents. Absolutely awesome app and I highly recommend it for blind people.

#14 Anonymouse podcast and post

Totally agree with your comments, I thought this was a must have app as soon as I heard about it, I don't get all the negative comments on viphone and applevis regarding this app, I know that we the blind are all different in how we organize and recognize our stuff, but it doesn't take much imagination to come up with some great uses for this app, and even if braille marking and other methods work better for some people, I can't understand why some people wouldn't welcome having another alternative easy method to do some things. If all I get out of the app is organizing my wallet items, CDs, DVDs, clothes and some work, home and neighborhood landmarks I'll consider the $10 dollar investment a no brainer. But I know this is just the tip of the iceberg and I think with time this is going to be even better and the sky's the limit for this app. Thank you Looktel for developing this app - and thanks Anonymous and Applevis for your excellent podcasts and content.

#15 Looktel recognizer

Well, when I first got this app I was very disappointed! But As I experimented with it a little it became more usable. They say the recognizer part of the app you have to have or best to have sited help to setup the data base! But I find this can be done without any help totally blind! Once the data base is created it is very easy to use! Now for the barcode scanner part! I find this totally unusable and cannot get it to work at all! But I am using the Iphone3gs and don’t know if the camera is the problem! I heard a podcast on it done with either the iphone4 or iphone4s. It turns out fairly well. It is by no means an ID mate so expecting this you will be disappointed no matter what you are using. I would like to get input on the results of someone using the iphone4 or iphone4s and then using the iphone3gs or iPod touch or ipad2! I think this might be good! Because I think the problem I am having with the barcode scanner part is the old hardware I am using! So in a nut shell I will say the recognizer part of the app is worth the 10 bucks! I do think there is lots of work to be done on both the recognizer and barcode scanner part! Mostly the barcode scanner part!

#16 Interesting Little Test

I did an interesting test today. I set 123 on both the left and right sides of my abacus and took a picture, then I set 321 on both sides of my abacus and took another picture. I reset the abacus to 123 and scanned it. Guess what, it worked. Then I set the abacus to 321 and tried it again. Guess what, it worked again. My next test is going to be a t-shirt test.

#17 clothing?

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I am very interested to hear how this app works with clothing. If it can identify colors well enough to tell me which of my dress shirts is which, even though they all have the same general shape, it would probably be worth getting. I expect, though, that it will just identify them all as the same, or at least mix up shirts of similar color. When anyone does tests on clothing, please report the results.

#18 Helpful App

I agree with the positive comments made regarding this app. I got it yesterday and have already added several things to my library. It works as described and I'm sure it will work better in future versions. I'm appreciative of LookTel for creating these types of apps.

#19 Why does it require speech input?

Club AppleVis Member

Like many above I wish this app had a default library but without using cloud storage and internet lookup this would be impractical. My bigger issue is why do so many "blindness" oriented apps insist that the user wants/needs/can only use voice input? VizWiz is also guilty for example. I do not like hearing my own voice. But more practically, if a text label can be used then this enables deafblind users to use the app with a braille display. Also, text labels take up less storage than a voice clip, so even people who do prefer the speech output could use a text label and then VoiceOver. This just seems a more natural way to use apps to me. Keeping the voice input/playback option is perfectly fine with me, but I wish it was not the only option, and that apps would stop assuming we cannot type!

#20 Suggestions

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Must agree. What I like to see as an improvements in future release is the ability after taking the image for the item we wish to create. That at this point gives us the ability to choose to make a text description and/or audio recording. I do not like that I can't even label my items rather having to listen to my audio at this point. I am going to send them an e-mail today in suggesting this option. We will have to wait and see in what they do from then. I still love this app and thank them so much for making this app.

#21 Travis, be sure to let

Travis, be sure to let Looktel know about your preference for text labels. Your point about people who are both deaf and blind and might use the iPhone with a Braille display is great.

#22 Travis: I already contacted

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Travis: I already contacted Looktel about the braille display issue, but have yet to hear back from them. Please also give them this feedback if you have yet to do so. I see it as a good feature to add to the app, since audio could also be tough to understand in noisy environments. I also have to agree with the positive responses on this, you just have to use it as what it is intended for. I think the shared libraries thing is a bit far reaching, but when used in conjunction with other apps, this is a good tool to add to your iOS arsenal to increase independence. As I said in another post, think about it this way. If you pay someone for an hour of work to help you sort things from time to time, you can have them identify things for you, add them to the database, and then you never need assistance with that particular item again.

#23 Recognizer will be updated- Humor me as I day dream....

From what they have said, LookTel is very actively working on Recognizer and they have big dreams for it. I have been envisioning what might be coming with the updates and how this unique app might be used in the future. What if libraries were easily downloaded and changeable? What if you could load libraries before you went somewhere- like Trader Joe's market? What if businesses offered libraries to download of their products on their web sites? What if there was an online library of libraries specific to different products, forms, signs? What if there was text labeling and also a button for more in-depth information? Such as for food, telling the ingredients and serving information but only if the user chooses to hear it? What if you could also add private comments to a product such as "This gift card has a balance of $20.00" or "Next time only use half the spices" or "This jacket is made with 80% wool?" What if there was a button to have help like VizWiz where a label would be made for you when you take a pix and send it? Anyone else care to daydream?

#24 Now that is what...

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Now that is what I'm talking about. If you implement any of those ideas of yours. This would really push this app to a whole new height. The possibility are endless. Great ideas Stella! Did you tell Looktel of those ideas of yours?

#25 Yes I have! Guess what? The

Yes I have! Guess what? The responded by saying: Stella, You're thinking like us! Give us time, this is just a 1.0 launch! expect feature additions, and improvements similar to the ones you mention and more over the next few updates. LookTel Needless to say, anonymouse, I am so excited!

#26 Why the Need to Photograph Items

Okay, I am very green about this product, but it occurred to me that don't most bar codes' information contain a picture of the label? Therefore, why didn't the developers just scan a library for those existing photos, so now when I aim my camera at a can of tomatoes with basil, there already is a database containing that product. Maybe I am wrong about existing databases having pictures...