This episode of Jason Rich's Featured App of the Week explores some of the ways you can use your smartphone's rear-facing camera, beyond just taking photos. This includes using the Goole Lens feature of the free Google app to identify objects, locations, artwork, or products, for example.
From this episode you'll also discover how to use your Apple iPhone or Android-based smartphone's rear-facing camera to identify and read QR codes, as well as how to transform your mobile device into a handheld scanner that can take any paper-based document and create a digital PDF file from it.
Finally, you'll learn about ways mobile app developers are utilize augmented reality to enhance your online shopping experience, for example.
The following is a listing of apps and services featured within this episode:
As always, if you find the information within this podcast useful, please share details about it with your friends, post a review, and don't forget to subscribe! Thanks for listening.
Featured App of the Week – Episode #17
Welcome back to the Featured App of the Week podcast. I’m Jason Rich.
Did you know that the rear-facing cameras that are built into your smartphone can be used for a lot more than just taking digital photos? The focus of this episode is on additional and useful ways you can use your smartphone’s cameras to expand what’s possible using your mobile device.
One of the coolest ways you can use your smartphone’s rear-facing, built-in camera, that doesn’t involve taking photos, is to use the Google Lens feature of the free Google app. This app comes bundled, for free, with most Android-based smartphones, or can be downloaded and installed from the Google Play Store. It’s also available for all iPhones from the App Store.
Instead of snapping a photo of what’s displayed within the viewfinder, the Google app’s Google Lens feature will automatically scan what’s seen within the viewfinder, determine what it is, access the Internet to learn all about that object, product, or location, and then display information about it - almost instantly, on your screen.
To use the Google Lens feature that’s part of the Google app, your smartphone must have Internet access. Once you launch the app, tap on the Google Lens icon that’s located near the top-right corner of the screen, to the right of the Search field, and then point the smartphone’s rear-facing camera at almost any object – in any location around the world.
When the desired object is displayed within the viewfinder, tap on the Search icon, which looks like a magnifying glass. It’s located at the bottom-center of the Google app’s screen.
Use this feature to identify any product, for example. Or, suppose you’re admiring an exotic house plant while visiting a friend’s home, and you want to know the name of the plant and perhaps obtain tips for how to care for it.
To do this, simply launch the Google app, tap on the Google Lens icon, and then point the smartphone’s camera at the house plant. Your smartphone will access the Internet and display information about what you’re looking at.
Keep in mind, this feature also works for locations, animals, artwork, or just about anything else you might want to learn more about. Best of all, you don’t need to manually type anything or have any clue about what you’re looking at as you launch the Google app.
Especially when you’re smartphone has access to the Internet, it’s capable to collecting or researching information about virtually any topic, and displaying answers on your screen within seconds.
Meanwhile, as you probably know, the Camera app that comes pre-installed with your smartphone’s operating system is used to control the camera when it comes to taking pictures. However, this same app – the Camera app – can also be used to scan QR codes that can be used to automatically launch your smartphone’s web browser and direct you to a specific website.
A QR code is like bar barcode. It’s typically printed in black and white, and is square-shaped. You’ll often see these codes displayed as part of ads in magazines or on billboards.
For example, if you’re reading a magazine and come across an ad for a new car, and you see a QR code displayed as part of the ad, when use launch the Camera app and focus the smartphone’s rear-facing camera on that QR code, your smartphone will launch its default web browser and immediately display the car manufacturer or dealer’s website.
If you’re an iPhone user, to make sure your smartphone will be able to identify QR codes, launch Settings, scroll down, and tap on the Camera menu option. From the Camerasubmenu, turn on the virtual switch labeled Scan QR Codes.
Just as the rear-facing camera built into your smartphone can be used to scan QR codes, it can also be used to transform your mobile device into a handheld scanner, so you can take any paper-based document and quickly transform it into a digital PDF file that can then be viewed, annotated, printed, archived, or shared – via email or text message, for example - directly from your smartphone.
Transforming your smartphone into a scanner requires the use of an optional app, such as Scanner Pro, Microsoft Office Lens, TurboScan, or Adobe Scan Digital PDF Scanner, each of which is available from the App Store if you’re an iPhone user, or the Google Play Store if you’re an Android mobile device user.
Within the Search field of the App Store or Google Play Store, enter the keyword “Scanner” to find an optional scanner app. Some scanner apps are available for free. Once the app is installed, launch it, and then place the paper-based document you want to scan on a flat, well-lit surface. You’ll have the best result scanning documents when no shadows appear on the papers your scanning.
As directed by the app, focus the smartphone’s rear-facing camera on the printed page, and then tap the Scan icon.
You can scan individual pages and save them as individual PDF files, or scan a multi-page document, and then store it within your smartphone as a single PDF file. Once stored, use a PDF file management app, such as PDF Expert, to view, edit, annotate, print, or share what is now a digital document. There are also optional apps that allow you to scan receipts for purchases and keep track of your business or personal expenses with ease.
Yet another way the rear-facing camera can be used by your smartphone is when an app you’re running is capable of utilizing augmented reality. This means that in addition to what the camera’s lens in capturing in the real world as you look at the viewfinder screen, the smartphone adds or superimposes computer-generated graphics to alter or enhance what you’re looking at.
Many smartphone app developers are using augmented reality in some very interesting ways. For example, if you’re using the Amazon app to shop online from Amazon.com, you might see an option to view the item you’re looking at within your home, before your actually purchase it.
When you select this augmented reality feature, the rear-facing camera of your smartphone will be activated and you’ll be told to point the camera in the direction where the item you’re looking at online will be placed within your home.
On the screen, you’ll see the actual area of your home as it currently appears, but added will be a three-dimensional, computer-generated version of the product you’re looking at on Amazon.com.
When augmented reality is used by various apps, the rear-facing camera of your smartphone is not actually taking a photo. It’s just scanning what the camera lens sees and using that information to augment the reality with specially-generated computer graphics.
Well that’s it for this edition of Jason Rich’s Featured App of the Week. As always, if you found this information useful, please share details about the podcast with your friends, post a review, and don’t forget to subscribe. I’m Jason Rich. Thanks for listening.