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Every so often
by Bruce Ure at 11:47 02/10/09 (Blogs::Bruce)
an iPhone app comes along that makes me go "No! No waaaay!". Today I found RedLaser.
This app allows you to point the iphone's camera at a barcode, whereupon it will translate it and do a lookup on Google, Amazon (etc?) and tell you what it is and how much it costs.

It's mind-boggling, not just that it works and is such an elegant and imaginative use of the technology, but how efficiently the thing can decode the barcode information. Sometimes the damn camera doesn't even have time to focus properly and the thing beeps to say it's read the code already. I keep thinking, oh come on, that must be a mis-reading. But not a single error so far. I guess the parity is pretty good on a barcode but even so, it's having to contend with camera shake, low and uneven light, poor alignment, reflections and so on, and still grabs them absurdly fast.

As for what it can identify, there are lots of things it can't, like Asda brand products (although it knows that a Waitrose product was "a John Lewis product", which is right since Waitrose is owned by John Lewis -- it couldn't identify the actual product though), and products that are too damn obscure, like the box from some weird phone handset.

But every single book I've scanned, which is about 50 now, has come up trumps in the Amazon or google searches. And many of the household products, like a Unilever floor cleaner, were successfully ID'd as well.

Bloody marvellous. Possibly only occasionally useful (would have been for me the other day at a market where someone wanted 8 quid for a book, and I knew I could get it cheaper online, so I ordered it from Amazon before I'd even left the shop, but with this I could have saved valuable seconds and perhaps even a few pence too), but bloody marvellous.

1.19 well spent.


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