It’s been a while since I blogged (a freshly minted child and 2 house moves will do that kind of thing to you….) but I saw something this week that made me think “People need to know about that. I should stick it on my blog.” Given how inactive I’ve been on here for so long, there may be a fundamental flaw in my logic there, but we’re going to let that slide for the moment….
Office Lens – did I mention it was free?
The thing that I saw was down to Ian Stuart. I had been asking some questions about OneNote and Class Notebook, and obviously Ian is the Go-To-Guy for such queries. He came out to visit me at school (many thanks Ian!) and ran through a few things with me. One of them was the amazing set of ‘Learning Tools’ available as a plugin for OneNote, and given our iOS situation he showed me the free Office Lens app too, but gave the caveat that it was only available in an iPhone version – although this could be used on the iPad like many iPhone apps.
After I got home, I went to download Office Lens to my iPad and found out that the info Ian had given me was inaccurate. There was an iPad version of Office Lens available! Turns out that it had literally just been released that day. I must have been one of the very first people to download it (and did I mention it was free?).
So what does it do?
Well, put simply, if you have a piece of text, you point Office Lens at it, take a photo of it and it will then read it to you and also covert it into an editable document. See the pics below for an idea of how it works.
First, frame your document in the camera, and capture an image using the onscreen red button.
A thumbnail will be displayed of the image you just captured. You can now take more pictures, if you have more pages to scan.
Choose where you want the image to be sent.
Let’s start with the Immersive Reader.
The conversion is reasonably quick, on a decent signal at least.
Immersive Reader provides a clean and pretty clutter free interface.
Press the play button, and the text will be read out to you. The speed of the reading can be varied to suit your individual needs.
The current word being spoken is highlighted as it is read, and you can make the speech faster or slower to suit.
Did I mention it was free? And we’re not finished yet…..
If you have a compatible OneDrive account – like I don’t know, a school account or through Glow – then you can upload the scanned document to Word through OneDrive….
…where it just happens to become fully editable text. As with any OCR technology, it’s not perfect – but it is pretty good.
As an easy to use app which is simple and user friendly, it’s mightily impressive. And did I mention it was free? Get it for iOS at http://tiny.cc/OfficeLens
It’s also available as an Android or Windows (naturally) app, but I haven’t seen them up and running. Definitely worth a look though.
So, that’s Lens. What about ‘through a lens’?
Well, an interesting thing happened when I was showing a colleague how Lens worked. This technology, which would have been jaw-dropping a couple of years ago say, is free to download and easy to use – and I’m listening to myself say “Yeah – it’s a shame you can’t change the colour of the background it’s reading from, or how the highlighting works. And I wish you could add a Scottish accent….”
And then I stopped and listened to myself. I smiled, and thought about what the app is capable of and what our reaction was to seeing. And it’s a telling glimpse of where we are. We are insatiable. It doesn’t matter how good a piece of software, or hardware or work is, we always want it to do more, be more, achieve more. Which is good, in a way, and where progress and improvement comes from. But sometimes you just need to stop for a minute and say good job, well done.
So Microsoft; good job, well done.