Monday, December 8, 2014

Using an iPhone to OCR text

This is a step-by-step walkthough of how I used my iPhone to convert a print book into plain electronic text so that Abi can read it on her refreshable Braille display.

She chose the book My Little Pony: Tricks and Treats at the bookstore the other day. 

My first step was to set up a stand so the phone could sit flat above the book. I also set it near the window so I would have good light. I flattened the page, and took a photo. 

Here is the photo I took of the page. 

I opened the photo in the iPhone "photos" app. 

Once there, I selected "Edit" in the top right corner. 

In the edit screen, I chose "crop" from the bottom menu. (It looks like a little box.)

Using the crop tool, I cropped the close to the words, and made sure the text was straight. To crop, I dragged the corners of the crop tool until they were positioned where I wanted them. 

Before hitting done, I used the "filters" tool to turn it to black and white. 

For this page, the "tonal" filter worked the best. 

For some of the photos, an additional step was needed. 

In the "light" menu, I chose the "contrast" adjuster. 

Raising the contrast to 100% made the words stand out more, and made the OCR more accurate later. 

OCR is a free app available in the App Store. Once all the pages were photographed and the photos edited, I opened this app. 

I selected the "photo" button, and then the "choose from library" option to get one of the pages from my photo library. 

All of the pages I had edited were there, and I chose the next one in line. 

Once the correct page was chosen, I hit the "read" button on the lower right. It looks like a check mark. 

For about five seconds, the app processed the text. 

Once the text is processed, I chose "select all" and then hit "copy" to copy the page of text to my phone's temporary clipboard. 

Our refreshable Braille display works the best with a very simple text reader, so I chose merely to email the text to myself. I pasted each page into an email, edited out the minor flaws in the text, and sent it to myself. 

Any number of text reader apps will also work for this step. 

All that was left was to connect the refreshable Braille display and enjoy the book. 

This whole process took about 45 minutes. A little time investment, but it was faster than using a scanner or typing in the text. 

And the best part is that Abi has a book to read that she chose herself!

[Note: on books with less text, another option is to read the book aloud and let the speech-to-text tool enter the text. We also have typed in the text of books. Whatever we need to do to get the braille practice on fun books!]

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