One of the best things about using Android is that new updates and features are constantly being introduced to the platform. Thus, Google recent announcement Several New Features and Improvements brings welcome new updates to Android’s many software services and apps, including Gboard, Google Play Points, and improvements to accessibility features, to name a few.
In particular, Android’s “Lookout” app is designed to help people with visual difficulties, and it uses your smartphone’s camera hardware to get a better view of the world around you, particularly with regard to texts, signs, etc. . To get started, you will need to download the “Lookout – Assisted Vision” app from the Google Play Store. It’s free of course, and will only take up a small amount of space on your phone’s internal memory.
A quick welcome screen will greet you upon opening the app, followed by permissions for “Better Image Recognition”, which will access Wi-Fi or mobile data connections to send images to Google for better results , like when trying to identify handwriting, for example. The app will also ask for permission to use the phone’s camera when active, which will allow the app to work as expected.
There are several modes to choose from when using the app, depending on what you will be using it for – you can choose from text, documents, food labels, and more. Lookout will read matching text, and there’s even an option to scan barcodes on items. As a quick test, I tried using Lookout’s “Document” mode to scan a book next to me. It was a simple process, as I simply had to point my camera at the book, wait for the on-screen cursor to align with it, and press the circular shutter button. He was even able to show me the text on the screen afterwards.
Using “text” mode is much easier, as all I had to do was point my camera at my immediate surroundings, and the app managed to read aloud all the words and letters I she saw.
There are a few minor issues though, with the app sometimes struggling to get a perfectly correct reading. I tried pointing the camera at a Scrabble box that was a bit further than the book, and as seen in the third screenshot above, it took a few tries before I could detect and spell “Scrabble” correctly, in which case the app asked me to rotate the phone or tilt it horizontally to get a better read.
In general though, the Lookout app is a great way to see your surroundings better, especially for users who might struggle with their vision. It’s simple and straightforward to use, which is definitely a big plus when it comes to accessibility features. Hopefully we get even more useful additions and upgrades to the app, especially with Android 13 on the horizon.