There’s an App for That: by Chris Tabb
Authors: Chris Tabb, Orientation and Mobility Supervisor, Maryland School for the Blind
Keywords: apps, iPhone, iOS, Voice Dream, scanning, Scan Tone
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There are a series of apps available for iOS users from Voice Dream that includes Voice Dream Reader, Voice Dream Writer, and now also includes Voice Dream Scanner ($5.99; Voice Dream Suite is $24.99 and includes all three Voice Dream apps). The scanner allows you to take a photograph of a typed document, PDF, utility bill, etc. and have it read to you. This is something that many other available apps do; the beauty of Voice Dream Scanner is the ease with which it works. The scanning can occur using the phone’s camera with the phone held above a document or text, or it can import a photo from your existing photos in your camera roll. So, you might have a friend send you a picture of the menu from a restaurant they like, and you could then import the photo of the menu into Voice Dream Scanner to have it read to you.
On the main screen, the app has a large window to show what is in the phone’s camera view, along with a couple of buttons at the top that allows the user to choose to enter the settings menu or to import an image from their camera roll. The buttons on the bottom of the screen are for toggling on and off the following options: edge detection, flashlight, batch mode, and auto-capture. In the very center of the bottom row is a capture button, just as you would find on the iPhone Camera app itself. Here is a bit of description for each of the toggles.
Edge Detection: You can either have the edges detected for you by the app or you can select them on your own. You may want to select the edges manually if you are seeking to exclude some areas of print that were captured in the photograph, such as an adjoining article when photographing a newspaper story.
Flashlight: Though the cameras in iPhones continue to improve with each iteration, the flashlight can be very helpful for capturing details with print in low light settings.
Batch Mode: If you are capturing a document with multiple pages, or a single page with front and back sides that both include print, batch mode will allow you to have them gathered together to be read continuously. If you choose to save the images captured, they will be saved as one document with multiple pages.
Auto-capture: This feature allows you to bring the document into the view of the camera and the app will take a picture of the document without you having to press the capture button manually.
Once the image is captured you can have it read to you by pressing the play button or you can drag your finger over the document to have whatever is below your finger read. There are also settings to change the speaking voice, rate of speech, and the language. Voice Dream Scanner allows you to choose whether you want to keep the scan or discard it. If you choose to keep the scan, options to export include: Save To Voice Dream Reader, Save As A PDF File, Save As A Text File, and Copy Text.
You can find a few other features in the settings menu that can make the process of capturing images of text and having them read automatically even easier. Turning on “ScanTone” provides a tone for feedback about the amount of text in the camera’s view, alignment of the edges, etc. With ScanTone, the louder the sound the better your scan will be. You can also choose to have the text read automatically when scanning rather than choosing “Done” after capturing an image.