For the last few days I've been playing with Scanr on the N95. I first wrote about Scanr in October of 2006, but with the low quality camera on my BlackBerry Pearl, and the Rogers high seas pirate pricing on data, it wasn't an option. With the new 1G data plan from Rogers, and the N95's 5 megapixel camera, it seemed like a good time to try it again.
What Scanr does is very simple. It uses the camera on your phone to capture an image, which it then sends to a web site scanning service. Depending on the type of content, it does different things. Business cards it will run through an OCR, and return you a vCard of the content, which you can then insert into your address book. Whiteboards are returned to you as PDF files. And documents can be faxed, OCR'd or PDF'd. A good idea, with lots of promise!
And it works amazingly well in practice. For example, I was introduced to Veronika Litinski of MarsDD in Toronto last week briefly while eating lunch in their food court. Her card scanned beautifully. The image above is the scan of her card taken by the N95, and below that is Scanr's interpretation.
Tips to get the best results from Scanr for business cards:
- Use a phone with a 5 megapixel camera. Although Scanr claims it will work with a lower pixel count, my previous experiences were not very impressive.
- Set the camera on macro to allow it to focus close up and reduce the strength of the flash.
- Focus as close as possible to the card, but do not cut any part of the card out. The software gets confused if it can't see the whole card.
- Don't waste time on cards that heavy color components. It doesn't work well there.
- Cards with a glossy finish also don't scan well, as the flash tends to obscure portions of the card.
Scanr also works well for whiteboard images. Snap a photograph, send it to Scanr and what you get back is a highly compressed image optimized for readability with the knowledge that it was created using markers and whiteboard or paper. It's a much better solution than today's expedient of snapping and mailing JPEG files.
I like it a lot. The $2.99 / month price to allow you to upload unlimited scans is a steal too.