Want to use your iPhone to photograph and OCR scan printed matter? Your chance may be coming soon. CNet reports that Creaceed’s Prizmo software, a desktop photo-OCR package that includes camera tethering and perspective correction, will soon be coming to the iPhone. No word yet on price; the desktop version costs $40.
The app’s crowning feature is that it can fix bad perspective, just like its desktop sibling, as well as let users snap photos without having to press the shutter button. Creaceed has devised a system through which users can simply say "take picture," so as to avoid any unintended shake or distortion from touching the screen.
It can then OCR the text and read it back, or send it to clipboard or various apps or cloud services such as Dropbox. It’s not clear from the article whether it will do the OCR on the device, or export it to a server for processing the way that Dragon’s Naturally Speaking for the iPad does with voice recordings. If the latter, then you would need Internet connectivity for it to work.
Either way, it’s worth noting that this might well spark some significant copyright controversy—if not right now, at some point in the future. The iPhone 4 sports a 5 megapixel camera—more than enough resolution to snap an entire page in OCR’able quality. It corrects for bad perspective (such as book spine curvature) too.
In fact, the only difference in principle between it and the high-speed flip-scan system developed by University of Tokyo researchers seems to be that the Tokyo one processes many more pages at a time—and even those researchers said their eventual goal was to build such a system into smartphones.
Already in Japan camera phones are forbidden near the magazine sections of stores because teens are apt to snap photos of magazine articles for later on-phone reading. Might iPhones someday be forbidden in bookstores?