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ZoomReader Lets Visually Impaired iOS Users Enlarge, Scan, or Listen to Text

With the iPad, Voice Recognition Provides Hands-Free Image Capture

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ZoomReader Lets Visually Impaired iOS Users Enlarge, Scan, or Listen to Text

ZoomReader magnification app can capture images via voice command, do OCR scanning, and read text aloud/

Ai Squared
Updated January 29, 2013

ZoomReader is an iOS app designed to provide persons who are blind or visually impaired with tools to enlarge, capture, or hear text read aloud.

The app uses the built-in camera on iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch) to zoom in on text and images. Voice recognition enables hands-free image capture; Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scans and converts imaged text into words you can listen to using text-to-speech.

Low-vision users can leverage ZoomReader to increase independence. The app's features enable users to look up phone numbers and TV listings; read pill bottles, price tags, or street signs; or scan restaurant menus without having to ask for help.

ZoomReader iOS App Features

The ZoomReader app has five main features:

  1. Magnification: Zoom in up to 4x
  2. Filter: 6 different color filter modes
  3. OCR & Text-to-Speech: Abbyy OCR and human-sounding speech from Nuance Communications
  4. Voice Recognition: Steady device with both hands for clear images; Say "Take picture"
  5. Share: Email text or copy to the clipboard.

Using ZoomReader

ZoomReader has a simple interface with large buttons, enables voice control for some features, is compatible with iOS accessibility features Zoom and VoiceOver.

To start, tap the ZoomReader icon on the home screen. Once open, the device screen sees what the camera sees.

The button at the top left of the screen turns Voice Recognition on and off. The top right button adjusts camera flash settings.

To zoom in, use the slide bar on the left side of the screen.

ZoomReader also enables users to change background and foreground colors to make text and images easier to read or view

Three buttons -- "Select Image," "Take Picture," and "Color Filter" -- run left to right across the bottom of the screen.

To capture text, hold the device over the material, tap the screen to manually focus the camera, and tap the "Take Picture" button.

You'll hear a shutter sound and see the word "Capturing" appear onscreen. Once captured, ZoomReader will say "Image Ready" and open the Preview screen.

On the Preview screen, you can:

  • Tap "Save" at the top right to add the image to your camera roll
  • Tap "Back" at the top left to retake the picture
  • Tap the OCR button at the bottom to have ZoomReader scan the image for text.

ZoomReader OCR Scanning

When you tap the OCR button, ZoomReader begins extracting the text from the image. When finished, it announces "Text ready" and displays it on a new screen.

If the words appear garbled -- a sign the camera was out of focus -- tap "Back" and retake the picture.

Tap the "Read" button to hear the text. ZoomReader highlights each sentence as it reads.

Tap "Stop" to pause, or "Settings" to make adjustments.

Tap "Share" to copy or email the image.

Using ZoomReader Voice Recognition

Given its size, it might seem easier to capture images on the iPad than with the iPhone. But despite its Retina display, the iPad is even more susceptible to blurring if not held steady.

Holding the iPad with two hands helps keep it steady, but also makes tapping the "Take Picture" more awkward.

ZoomReader's built-in voice recognition lets you tell the iPad to take pictures.

To turn on voice recognition:

  • Tap the gear icon in the upper left corner of the screen to open the "Settings" screen.
  • Tap "General."
  • Slide the On/Off "Voice Recognition" button beside to the right to turn it on.
  • Tap "Done."

To use voice recognition to take pictures:

  • Align the iPad over the image and say, "Take picture."
  • The word "Processing" appears to confirm the command, followed by a camera click sound of a and the word "Capturing" displayed.
  • Once captured, you will hear "Image Ready" and see a preview of the image.
  • Say "Read."
  • ZoomReader will process all the text within the image.
  • When you hear, "Text Ready," say "Read" a second time. ZoomReader will begin reading the text.

ZoomReader Cost & Compatibility

ZoomReader is available from Ai Squared and the App Store for $19.99.

The app works on the iPad (3 and 4 with Retina display), iPhone (4 and up), the iPad Mini, the iPod touch (4.2, 5, and 6) with a 5MP camera. File size: 113 MB.

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