Mobile document scanning and OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a great example of the fusion and evolution of technology. What used to require a bulky scanner and special desktop software, almost any smartphone with a camera can now do. There are several apps in the App store (SmartScan+OCR ($3.99), Perfect OCR ($3.99), etc.), that allow you to scan and recognize printed text and images, but Prizmo ($9.99) is a scanner application for iOS that takes it one step further. It will attempt to detect and then segment these captured areas out as separate document fields, preserving the formats (image sections vs. text), translating the results into multiple languages, and even reading them out to you! Prizmo makes it easy for you to arrange and share them as needed, and is also a great business card or image scanner.
Add barcode readers, augmented reality, fax, language translation, heart rate monitor, and more to your iPhone or 4th gen iPod touch
The range of creative and practical apps that use the camera in unusual ways is astonishing. Who would have thought that you could use it as a heart rate monitor or a business card reader? There's even an app for those who are colorblind, to show them the colors present in any object you photograph.
Apple made a brilliant decision when it let developers create apps that access the camera input and use it in non-traditional ways. In this month's column, I offer a roundup of some of these apps.