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A Google app I hope I’ll never have to use just got a few cool new features

Published Aug 11th, 2020 10:14PM EDT
Apps for the Blind
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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  • Google updated its Android app for the blind and visually impaired with a new design, support for more devices, and support for more languages.
  • Google Lookout has also received two new modes: Food Label and Scan Document.
  • Lookout uses the phone’s camera to help the blind and visually impaired see and read, relying on artificial intelligence technology similar to Google Lens.

I wrote last October that Google Maps got an impressive new feature that I hope I’ll never have to use. That was an accessibility feature that made Google Maps navigation a lot simpler for blind people and the visually impaired. Google hasn’t stopped updating the accessibility features targeting this particular group of smartphone users, and it’s time for Lookout to receive a few cool updates, which I also hope I’ll never have to use.

Google launched Lookout last year, an Android app that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to interpret the world through the camera lens for people who are blind or vision impaired. The app relies on the same AI technology that Google deployed inside its Google Lens app. Initially, the app worked on Pixel devices in English only and could recognize people, objects, and text.

Google on Tuesday announced a big update for the app, making the app available on a wide range of devices, and adding support to more languages. Lookout will work on any device that features at least 2GB of RAM and runs Android 6.0 or later. It supports English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish.

Google Lookout
New Google Lookout feature: Food Label. Image source: Google

On top of that, the app delivers a few extra features called Food Label and Scan Document. The former will look for the label or barcode of a food product and tell you what it is. The feature can be helpful in stores, but also at home when it comes to putting away groceries. Google explains that Food Label will be able to distinguish cans that feel the same to the touch and tell you what they contain, as seen in the illustration above.

Google Lookout
New Google Lookout feature: Scan Document. Image source: Google

As the name suggests, Scan Document is a feature that lets you scan letters, mail, and anything printed. Lookout will take a photo of the document and then capture the content which can then be read aloud.

Google also said in its announcement that it updated the design of the app after listening to feedback from the blind and low-vision community. The design makes more space for the camera view, and navigation requires fewer taps and less time than before. Users will be able to scroll between modes at the bottom of the screen. The entire design is compatible with the TalkBack Android screen reader feature.

The Lookout app is available to download on the Google Play store.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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