ZoomReader Review

Introduction

ZoomReader is an OCR app for the iPhone 4,. It is manufactured by Ai Squared, who also develop and support the ZoomText desktop magnification software for Windows platforms. I was encouraged to try out ZoomReader, in light of this reputation. I had not previously attempted OCR on my iPhone and so this is not a comparison between existing IOS OCR solutions. Rather than concentrate on my findings, I have focused on describing ZoomReader and its interface, in order that anyone may make an informed decision regarding its suitability for themselves.

Initial Impressions

  • I tested ZoomReader three times with the same small business card.
  • The third attempt yielded the best results, probably because I made more of an effort lining up the shot.
  • Accuracy was approximately 85 percent. However I anticipate better when trialing with a larger printed page.

Requirements

  • ZoomReader is currently only compatible with iPhone 4 handsets. It will not run on iPhone 3GS devices.
  • There’s no reason why it shouldn’t work with iPad 2 models, but this is not advertised and could be a planned future free upgrade.

Software Overview

There are three main screens which reflect the start, image scanning and OCR stages of operation. Here are summaries of each.

The Home screen

  • Contains buttons for settings adjustment, camera configuration, image capture and photo library browsal.
  • It is possible to select an existing picture from the iPhone’s photo library to use for recognition. The iPhone’s photo library is also where any saved page images are stored.

The Photo screen

  • Contains Save and OCR buttons.
  • It is not necessary to save an image before performing OCR on it.

The Text screen

  • Contains recognised text, Read, Stop and Share buttons.
  • All buttons are self explanatory except the share button. This allows you to copy text to the iPhone’s clipboard, email it or save the original image.
  • You would save text output by first copying it to the clipboard and then pasting it elsewhere e.g. a new Note in the Notes app.

Additional Observations

  • Settings include highlight colour (yellow by default) and reading voice.
    • One American male voice is included with the app.
    • Two American female voices together with alternatives for foreign languages are available for £1.99 each.
    • The included voice, RealSpeak Tom, is also the default voice on Kindle.
  • It’s worth pointing out that you can also use the iPhone’s VoiceOver screen reader to read the displayed text.

Conclusion

ZoomReader is clearly designed for efficient text reading on-the-move. It is certainly not meant to be a replacement for the KNFB Reader Symbian software, given the absence of any sophisticated E-text library capabilities. I don’t know how its OCR accuracy compares to other apps in its class, but it is very straightforward and could potentially be quite effective in emergencies.

Accessible Literature

Reading can be difficult. Many people have never received an education and yet of those of us who have, there are still a multitude of possible obstacles that might prevent us from enjoying books.

As a blind person, the most obvious barrier for me is that of finding accessible books. Technology is constantly improving the situation with the development of scanning and character recognition. Yet even then, legal considerations often prohibit distribution of such materials, making finding them, challenging.

I’ve recently devoted more of my time toward reading the Bible. As you might expect, the same difficulties exist in reading the Bible as with anything else. There are a number of websites which freely offer online access to a variety of translations. However, there still remains the problem of accessing materials offline. Fortunately, help is available. Optasia Ministry is an organisation offering their entire library without charge to visually impaired people throughout the world. As well as Bibles, their library contains a surprisingly comprehensive collection of related literature. Take a look at their website to find out more by visiting www.optasiaministry.org.