Here’s a free iPhone application that’s sure to get some use from me this holiday season. It’s called SnapTell Explorer because you snap a product’s picture and it tells you what the product costs at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Using the mediocre camera on my iPhone, I snapped a picture of "The Audacity of Hope" that I’m reading now. Sure enough, even with a marginal picture, SnapTell correctly identified the book and provided me relevant links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Wikipedia, as well as Google and Yahoo!.
The technology behind the application is geared to work through the inevitable blur that’s common with quick snaps from a cameraphone:
"Our technology works effectively on photos taken with almost allcamera phones in the world wide market, including phones on the lowerend of the market that have VGA cameras or relatively low resolution(640×480) cameras. Also, our matching server can handle photos taken inreal life conditions that have a lot of issues including lightingartifacts, focus blur, motion blur, perspective distortion andincomplete overlap with the database image. Our technology works in awide variety of real life scenarios including those of consumers takingphotos of magazine print ads, outdoor billboards, posters, productpackaging, branded cans, bottles and logos.
Anothernovel aspect of our technology is a patent pending innovation toautomatically extract text embedded in camera phone images withunprecedented accuracy and use the extracted text to drive search. Textextraction is useful in scenarios in which the target image is notalready registered in the database"
The application’s database is currently limited to CDs, DVDs, video games and books, but according to TechCrunch, it’s pretty well stocked in those areas. There’s definitely room for improvement since SnapTell doesn’t provide a one-screen view of prices, like a comparable early Android application that uses barcodes to identify products. Speaking of Android, the company plans to offer SnapTell for that platform as well.