Search with your camera with CamFind

photo (9)CamFind is a new iOS app from Image Searcher. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and does not carry any additional in-app purchases.

CamFind is a simple tool that allows users to search for things online using their device’s camera. The app makes use of various forms of image recognition technology to determine what is in the photograph, and then presents the user with a variety of information pulled from various sources online. This ranges from prices to images to relevant local businesses (via Yelp) and finally a simple online search for the item in question. The app is also capable of reading QR codes to go directly to linked websites, reading barcodes to carry out Red Laser-style price comparisons, and translating text into various languages. The app also features a text-to-speech facility which reads out the name of whatever has been photographed.

Using the app is a simple case of snapping a photo using the simplified camera interface and then waiting for the app to perform its function. When tested in a local coffee shop, the app successfully recognized a generic cardboard coffee cup, the name of the establishment printed on a napkin, a can of apple juice, the logo on my laptop computer (plus the fact it was a laptop computer, not a desktop), a Windows 7 logo and various QR/barcodes. Searching took a few seconds on Wi-Fi and noticeably longer over 3G. The app also had a heavy impact on battery life, particularly when used over 3G, since it was actively using both location services and the cellular data connection to retrieve information.

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Once the app has recognized something, it doesn’t jump straight to the page of search results, just in case it has recognized the wrong thing. Instead, it shows the name of the item it has recognized at the top of the screen and, assuming the “voice” feature is turned on (which it is by default), it is also read out loud to the user. If it is the correct item, the user simply taps on the item at the top of the screen to view the full page of search results; if it is incorrect, they simply take a new photo. Past photo searches are all stored in a history function, so the user can easily jump back to past searches without having to manually photograph the object in question again.

A button on the right of the screen conceals several options, including the ability to turn voice on and off, the ability to search using the user’s voice rather than photographs, and the ability to select from the available languages the app supports. Not all languages support text-to-speech, but where available the app will translate text from one language into another and read it out to the user. It’s also possible to share search results via email, iMessage/SMS, Twitter or Facebook, and to save the image to Camera Roll, print it or assign it to a contact.

CamFind is an impressive piece of technology that appears to work very well. The only real concerns the app raises are the amount of time it takes to retrieve search results over cellular data connections, and the heavy strain it appears to place on battery life. There’s relatively little that can be done about the former as it is more dependent on the quality of the connection than anything else, but perhaps there are some optimizations which can be done about the latter.

Despite these issues, however, CamFind is a helpful addition to any iOS user’s homescreen, and an interesting new way of searching for information. The inclusion of QR and barcode reader technology makes it a useful multi-function app that deserves to enjoy some success.

You can follow CamFind’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.