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Google's app for the visually impaired adds food and document scanning

The update also brings wider Android support and more languages.
Cherlynn Low, @cherlynnlow
August 11, 2020
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Google Lookout 2018
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Google launched its Lookout app in 2019 for people who are blind or have low-vision to navigate the world with their phones, but it was only available on Pixel phones with languages set to English. Today, the company is rolling out an update that not only adds French, Italian, German and Spanish to the list of supported languages, but also brings two new modes, a more accessible design and greater Android compatibility.

The first of the new modes is Food Label, which helps users identify packaged foods by pointing their cameras at the label. Lookout will guide you to place the product in a way that lets it be recognized via its packaging or barcode. According to Scott Adams, product manager for Google’s Accessibility Engineering, this would let Lookout “distinguish between a can of corn and a can of green beans,” for example.

Google Lookout app update Food Label
Google

The other mode is Scan Document, which as its name suggests can take a snapshot of a letter or other documents and read it aloud. Adams said this tool will “capture the entire document’s content in detail” for your screen reader to narrate to you, and can make tasks like sorting through mail easier. Compared to previous versions of the app, Scan Document can capture longer-form content, too.

Google Lookout app update Scan Document
Google

Lookout’s new design is based on “feedback from the blind and low-vision community,” Adams wrote in the announcement. It works better with Android’s TalkBack screen reader, giving more space to the camera’s viewfinder so you can squeeze more into the frame. In addition, you can now scroll between modes at the bottom of the screen instead of having to tap back and forth to change them.

Finally, Lookout is no longer a Pixel-only app. You can install it from the Play Store on any Android device with more than 2GB of RAM and running Android 6.0 or newer. With the updates to Lookout and the recent rollout of Live Caption for Calls with the Pixel 4a, it’s nice to see Google improve its accessibility features to include a wider range of users.

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