If you’ve got 10 spare minutes this weekend, you should use them to fool around with some image recognition apps. Whether you’re a foodie or a nature nut, there’s something for you, and it’s never been easier to engage with the things you love.
Plus, we’ll hint at what the future could hold for industries and hobbyists who fully embrace this kind of technology. Spoiler alert: It’s a lot more fun.
Food and Drink
Image recognition apps for food and drink have a ton of potential. Creating and indexing recipes, developing interactive shopping lists, storing favorite specialty items — this is just the beginning. Many food and drink tasks can be made easier when you have a computer on your side to tell you what’s what. Here are two image recognition apps that make food tasks way easier.
Calorie Mama AI
Calorie Mama AI is a food-recognition app — that is, users can snap a photo of their meal, and Calorie Mama AI will know what the foods are. That tech is paired with an API that pulls from a variety of databases the nutritional value of whatever foods you put in front of it.
This is a great way to help people keep track of what they’re eating without having to log individual ingredients — especially if you’re trying to track a meal while dining at a restaurant. Nobody wants to be sitting at a table typing in portions and ingredients when they’re trying to get started with dinner. The app autofills the serving and nutrition information for your foods much faster than most people can get through search and menu items in a normal caloric counter, thereby automating a rote task.
Vivino is a wine app for finding, learning about, and purchasing wine. It works based on a wine’s label: If you snap a picture of it, the app will provide information about that wine — its rating, user reviews, where to find it, notes, and more.
This is a very easy way to get information about a wine. Whether you’re shopping in the wine store or trying to impress guests at a dinner party, it’s a snap to get a complete profile of a wine.
It also saves wine labels so users can keep track of what they’ve had. This is a much easier way to store wine information than a written list or a bunch of photos scattered in your camera roll, especially because wine labels are often the most vivid thing we remember about wines. This means users can just flick through their gallery to find the wine they had before — and how they felt about it.
Language apps are all the rage for everything from serious language learning to travel and guidebooks. It’s only natural that image recognition apps would appear in a space that’s bursting with apps, websites, and newfangled solutions to age-old language-learning problems.
Translate: Ultimate Translator and Photo Translator
Both Translate: Ultimate Translator and Photo Translator let you use text, voice, or photos to input phrases for translation. While these are multipurpose apps, let’s focus on the photo feature, especially because it’s one of the most useful.
Say you’re on a trip to Dakar, Senegal, and you don’t speak or read French or Wolof. If you see a sign with instructions or are trying to read a menu or a package, do you want to sit there trying to find different accents and spell words you’ve never seen before? No! You want to look up from your phone and get on the right train before it leaves without you.
Or if you’re looking for the food court or a restroom in a mall, you want to be able to get there quickly.
Translate: Ultimate Translator
And that’s before factoring in different alphabets.
Both of these apps cater directly to the “smart” language-apps scene. Voice recognition, photo recognition, easier translations, and quicker, more accurate results are pretty much expected. Photo-recognition apps take a lot of human error out of translations because the apps process the original source text without errors from retyping. They’re also just easier to use — and very cool.
Image recognition has been a big part of search online for a while now — from reverse image search to photo search on ecommerce websites. Search apps are extending this into the world to bring anyone a little closer to information on the stuff in front of them — whether it’s an antique or a book cover.
The CamFind App is a nifty tool that can tell you what pretty much anything is, once you snap a photo of it. It takes the raw function of something like reverse image search and makes it a breeze to use on mobile. Their use cases are endless — everything from junk at flea markets and tag sales to car models and animal breeds can be identified with the app.
This is a pretty fun thing to try out for yourself, and an easy way to access information about the world around you, all with the touch of a button. But it’s also fueled by CloudSight’s recognition API, which can be incorporated into other apps to make them better. This is really a bit of fun that shows off the product and gets juices flowing. So if you decide you are going to make that dog-spotting app after all, you can use this API to help users get around.
With Google Goggles, not to be confused with Google Glass, you can search by taking a photo of an item — a painting, a famous landmark, a barcode or a QR code, a product, a popular image, and more. When you search, you immediately get info on the item.
In this way, it’s kind of like Wikipedia, but you don’t have to type any search terms.
This takes away a step that can sometimes be impossible — describing something you don’t know the name of. We all want to figure out who did a painting seen in a waiting room, or we want to look up a landmark we’re standing in front of without looking like a total tourist by asking everyone what it is. This app just removes the obstacle that can make searching so hard: describing things in text to find information about an image.
The Goggles app can also read several different languages, which makes it perfect to bring along while traveling, where you’re likely to run into a thing or two you want to know more about without having to ask.
Whether it’s a stand-alone app or a feature, image recognition can make the world a more accessible place. These are two examples of the kinds of features that can be helpful for increasing the accessibility of apps, making your corner of the world a little friendlier and setting you ahead of other apps in your field.
NantMobile Money Reader
NantMobile Money Reader identifies bills from a photo and reads out their denomination. It’s clear that this is a useful feature for people who are blind, who otherwise may need to rely on others to be honest about handling their money and relaying the denominations of cash. It supports 21 currencies and has great reviews from people who are vision-impaired.
This is a great feature for a stand-alone app, but it could also easily be incorporated in banking or money-sharing apps. Anyone who is building fintech apps could stand to add a feature like this, as it fits right in with new visual features, such as mobile check deposit.
Aipoly Vision was designed to help people who are blind, vision-impaired, or color blind recognize objects. Not only does it identify objects — with an option to speak them out — it also picks up on colors and learns new objects as you use it. This is another case where it’s clearly a useful stand-alone feature, but there’s so much more that companies could be doing with this tech.
Take a home-decor app or an outfit-building app: Having colors listed right there in the app would help many a color-blind person put things together in an aesthetically pleasing way.
But wait, there’s more! Aipoly is a company working on autonomous markets, like Amazon’s cashierless grocery store. They’ve developed this tool to help people get information on objects in real time, like when they’re at a grocery store finding specific items on shelves. That’s why it’s a great example of how companies working on other projects can incorporate accessibility through image-recognition tech as part of their core.
We’ve already covered a slew of ecommerce apps, from home decor to virtual try-ons. There’s no shortage of apps in this space; and be sure to check out our other lists for even more great apps to try. But today, we’re going to cover two nifty little apps.
Flow by Amazon
With Flow by Amazon, users can identify tens of millions of products, including books, DVDs, and packaged household items, such as a box of cereal or a box of tissues. And when those items are identified, they are purchasable or searchable if you’re looking for more information.
For a company with an inventory like Amazon’s this is a great app. You can reorder food items just by snapping the packaging, or you can order a book a friend tells you about while you’re still over at their place. Or you can instantly price compare items in-store to know whether you’re getting the best deal.
As more retailers start to implement things like visual search, live app components will become great complements to what appears on the website. Oh, an P.S. Amazon: Please put visual search on your website!
An interesting app to keep on your phone is the Screenshop app. It allows you to shop looks from any screenshot on your phone. See a cute outfit on Instagram? Love a look from an influencer on YouTube? Can’t resist trying to find your favorite Netflix character’s shoes? Screenshot it and run it through the Screenshop app for instant shopping.
Syte’s technology powers this app to identify clothing items from any photo, and Screenshop immediately pairs those with items for sale. You can save items, share them, and see similar products in different price ranges, based on any photo. This app is very clever because it centralizes shopping on the mobile device. With image-based mobile platforms becoming so popular, and mobile shopping on the rise as well, Screenshop marries the two beautifully.
There’s something to be said for people who can identify rock types, plants, animals and animal tracks by sight alone. Unfortunately, the rest of us amateurs have been stuck with our noses in guidebooks or trying to describe what we’ve seen to experts. But now we can turn to digital experts — a second set of “eyes” that can help us learn and discover on our own.
Leafsnap and PlantSnap
Both Leafsnap and PlantSnap help users identify plants from a picture alone. This is a great example of how building out image recognition apps to suit a very specific purpose can work well. In this case, it’s a natural extension of how people used to identify plants — by trying to find a matching photo or drawing in a guidebook, for example.
Naturalists, home gardeners, teachers, enthusiasts, hikers: Anyone who is coming across plants in the wild can use these apps. Delving deeply into this niche –– PlantSnap can accurately identify 90% of plants — opens up a lot of use cases.
Why stop there?
This is only a small sampling of the incredible apps that incorporate image recognition features. We hope you’ve found something new and useful to try, but we suspect you’ll soon find image recognition apps are more popular than you thought. Once you start using these features, you’ll want to upgrade more of your apps to include them.