TapTapSee: A Blind and Visually Impaired Camera
TapTapSee is a mobile camera application designed specifically for the blind and visually impaired. Versions are available for both Android and iOS devices. The app utilizes the smartphone’s camera and a mobile screen reader like TalkBack or Voiceover to photograph objects, identify them and speak the identity out loud for the user.
TapTapSee enables the user to double tap on the device’s screen to photograph any two or three dimensional object at any angle, have it accurately analyzed, and defined within seconds. As was stated above, once this process is complete, the mobile screen reader then speaks the identification audibly to the user.
Moreover, TapTapSee includes the following additional features: Repetition of the last image’s identification, ability to upload images from the camera roll, share identification via Twitter, Facebook, text or email, rotor reader, flash toggle, and the ability to save the identified image to the camera roll with the attached tag. The ability to upload images from the camera roll is especially helpful when one wants to determine what pictures are on their phone.
TapTapSee was an American Foundation for the Blind, 2014 Access Award Recipient in January of 2014, a Royal National Institute for the Blind, App of the month in March of 2013 and was inducted into the AppleVis iOS Hall of Fame in 2013.
When the app was first launched, it was free to download and free to use. For a period of time, the app’s developer, citing high maintenance costs, began charging for pictures. One could choose to pay for 100 pictures which never expired or to pay a fee for as many pictures as one could take in a month. Now, however, the app is, once again, totally free to download and use, a fact which garnered high praise from the blind community.
TapTapSee is available through the Apple iTunes Mobile App Store and the Google Play Store. For best results, follow the guidelines set forth by the app developer.
The camera on the phone is located in the top right corner behind the front facing screen of the phone when the device is in the upright position so it is advised to hold the phone about 8-12 inches (20-30 centimeters) away from the object being photographed. This method will help ensure that the object is in the scope of the camera. TapTapSee has an autofocus notification to let the user know when the photographed object is in focus. For best picture identification, wait until the app beeps before taking a picture. The autofocus notification can be turned ON and OFF in the About menu. Pictures snapped with TapTapSee should be taken in a well lit environment. The app also features an automatic flash, which can be turned ON and OFF in the About menu. The barcode on canned goods is almost always located to the left of the seam of the can where the two label ends meet and overlap. Other written information, such as brand, product name and info is usually across from the seam on the opposite side of the can. To get the best results when taking a picture of the label, be sure to keep the camera 8-12 inches (20-30 centimeters) away from the can.
When you open the app for the first time, it presents a privacy notice which you must accept; additionally, you must enable the app to use the camera. Normally a notification pops up right away prompting you to allow this to happen. Note that you can permit or revoke this permission in your phone’s settings app.
Once you accept the privacy notice and give the app permission to use the camera, you are taken into the app. You find a camera and four buttons at the top of the screen - Repeat, Library, Share and About. To take a picture, double-tap on the camera button, the screen where you hear the word “Camera” and wait approximately seven to 10 seconds to receive an identification. The wait time may fluctuate depending on your network connection. The image is sent to the server where it is identified and sent back to the user. The identification then is spoken to the user. Up to three images at a time can be identified. After the third image is identified, unless you save one or more of the images to the camera roll, the app starts back with image one, and the previously taken pictures disappear.
TapTapSee gives users a general identification of any picture taken. However, if, for example, the user takes a picture of a can of soup and wants to know the name of the brand, the application will be able to read the label and return the identification with the brand name. Nevertheless, keep in mind that TapTapSee will only be able to recognize the object that is within the camera's scope and in focus. Lighting conditions are also important for the quality of the identification. Just to see what would happen, I snapped a picture of my pastor who was described by TapTapSee as a “bald man wearing glasses.” While photographing people is not the app’s main purpose, you may find that you can get some general descriptions of people with it. The app even identifies animals and their general color or at least that you have a picture of a dog rather than a cat. I find it most helpful for distinguishing between boxes of k-cups, my favorite use for the app.
The toolbar, as noted, contains four buttons. The Repeat Button restates the last picture identification spoken aloud in case it was missed the first time. The Library Button accesses the device's Camera Roll in order to send images to TapTapSee for identification. To access this feature, simply double-tap the Library button and select an image that you want to have identified from the Camera Roll. The Share Button shares the image via Twitter, Facebook, Email or Text and also includes the option for the user to save the image to the device's Camera Roll. The saved image will include the tag that was provided by TapTapSee.
To download the app, search your app store for “TapTapSee”, and you should find it. Otherwise, for iOS users, go to: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/taptapsee-blind-visually-impaired/id567635020?mt=8
Android users can go to: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.msearcher.taptapsee.android