October 2014 Issue  Volume 15  Number 10

Product Evaluations and Guides

The Giraffe Reader Scanner Stand and the Prizmo Scanning App for iOS

This article describes the new Giraffe Reader, a stand for document scanners, and an existing scanning app, Prizmo. I will compare the Giraffe Reader with the StandScan Pro and I will compare Prizmo with the ABBYY TextGrabber and Translator, an app used to scan and read text. The StandScan Pro and ABBYY TextGrabber and Translator were discussed in the June 2014 issue of AccessWorld .

The Giraffe Reader

The Giraffe Reader is an iPhone and iPod stand for scanning documents. When folded flat, it measures approximately 8 1/8 inches by 9 3/4 inches by ½ inch, and weighs just over 3 ounces, making it extremely portable. The Giraffe reader feels like corrugated cardboard, but it is made from waterproof and strong polypropylene plastic. It was designed from the start to be used by people who are blind. There are tactile notches and stickers to assist with folding it into the correct shape, and the device is held together extremely well by tiny but strong magnets. The Giraffe reader works with the iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5s, and 5c. It also works with the 4th generation iPod touch and later.

Assembling the Giraffe Reader

I was able to assemble the unit quickly and without sighted assistance. At this time, written instructions are not included with the Giraffe Reader. The user can either listen to the video on the Giraffe Reader website, or follow the instructions below.

  1. Take the Giraffe Reader out of the envelope. It is folded approximately in thirds. Unfold one end and then the other so that the unit is completely flat. At no time is any force needed whatsoever.
  2. Turn it over. Find the notches on the left and right sides. Move your fingers around until you feel a single round sticker on the left side near the notches and two stickers on your right side near the notches.
  3. Put your thumbs on the stickers and your fingers behind the unit. Lift up so the stickers are brought towards each other. You might want to begin with the side with one sticker, but you can then immediately start with the other side. Again, almost no force is required to do this.
  4. As the sides meet, you will hear the magnets click into place. Just move your hands around the unit to make sure all the magnets have connected. It should feel like one flat rectangle on the bottom and a long neck with a cradle to hold the iPhone on the top.

Scanning a Document

Once the Giraffe Reader is assembled, place it on a flat surface such as a desk or table, and make sure there is sufficient light. Normal room light should be fine. Place the document flat on the base plate with the bottom edge of the document against the neck of the Giraffe Reader. If you don't know which edge is the bottom, your OCR program should assist with this when processing the scan. Run your hands along the side of the base plate to ensure that the document is lined up and straight.

Place your iPhone or iPod touch into the cradle at the top of the Giraffe Reader. Make sure the camera lens is facing the document. Use your favorite scanning app to take a picture of the document on the base plate.

The Prizmo iOS App

Prizmo has improved significantly since it was last reviewed in AccessWorld in 2012. It is a bit expensive at $9.99.

As stated in the iTunes Store:

Prizmo is made for everyone, and is thus fully compatible with VoiceOver. It provides voice guidance to help position your iPhone when taking document pictures, and will find the text orientation automatically if it's turned left, right or upside down. Prizmo's quick capture mode provides a fast path from picture to speech synthesis for an improved workflow, and it provides a high-quality voice reader

  • Highly accurate OCR technology in 40+ languages…
  • No Internet connection required for image processing and performing OCR.
Prizmo Settings

The Settings menu is accessible and very basic. There's a switch button to save your documents to iCloud. The General section is about saving your scans to your photo album.

The next menu item is OCR. The first option in this menu is Detect Text Orientation. Turn this switch on if you want Prizmo to automatically detect text orientation. The next option in OCR is Languages. This is set to English by default, but there are many other options.

The Export option in the Settings menu has the user choose the image quality of the scanned document when it is exported. The final settings option is Accessibility. Here is where you can choose the rate of speech for the Prizmo Voice Reader.

All buttons on Prizmo are clearly labeled. In the upper left corner is the "Settings" button; in upper right corner is the "Edit" button. Just above the "Home" button is the "Quick Capture" button. This lets you quickly perform a scan. Using this option automatically takes the photo as a text document. There is no need to do anything else. Flicking left will bring you to the "Create New Document" button. Here you can choose the document type (e.g., text or image). Be sure to select Text. Flicking once more to the left is the "Rename Document" button. Once you have created a document, activate this button to type in a name for your document.

Prizmo now offers audio feedback when you are ready to take a scan of your document. It will say "No page visible" if it can't locate a page. Prizmo vibrates when the phone is parallel to the document. When the document is in focus, Prizmo will say "Ready to shoot." However, Prizmo frequently told me that it was ready and then a second later it would say that no page was visible, though there had been no change in the position of the iPhone. Begin by first activating the "Quick Capture" button. Then hold the phone over the document and wait to hear what Prizmo says. There will be a "Take Picture" button where the quick capture button was. You will hear the camera take a photo, and in a few seconds you'll hear a sound and Prizmo will say, "Processing." The result will be on the screen and you can read it with VoiceOver commands.

You can also read the document from the reader within the app. At the top right of the screen is a "Close" button. On the bottom of the screen are several buttons. The first button is "Read." Activating this button will bring up Prizmo's voice reader. In order not to have to flick through the document to get to controls, tap the "Language" button on the bottom left corner. This button will say whatever language you are using. Then flick left. You will eventually find the "Play" button. When the document begins to play, it will use settings from the Accessibility menu from within the app, not from VoiceOver. While Prizmo is reading, buttons to change the speaking rate are at the bottom of the screen. Next to the "Read" button is a button to copy and a button to export into another file format.

Once you have your document, through the Edit menu you can rename the document, move and delete pages, and delete the entire document.

Comparisons

For the first part of this evaluation, I scanned a letter, a page from a contract, and a three-column magazine article using Prizmo without a stand, then using the Giraffe Reader, and finally using the StandScan Pro.

Both the Giraffe Reader and StandScan Pro worked well with Prizmo when scanning the letter, although the Giraffe Reader scan was more accurate. Scanning the letter without a stand produced a document that was mostly gibberish.

When the contract page was scanned with the StandScan Pro, Prizmo read most of the page, but there were many words that it didn't read correctly. When the Giraffe Reader was used, Prizmo was much more accurate, missing only a few words. When scanned without a stand, Prizmo did not do as well as in the StandScan, but the page was still readable.

The final scanned item was a magazine page with three columns in different parts of the page. Both StandScan Pro and Giraffe Reader were able to provide good scans, but again, the Giraffe Reader scan yielded more correct words. Prizmo had no difficulty processing and reading the columns in the correct order. When the page was scanned without a stand, the results were poor and mostly unusable.

The same documents were then scanned using ABBYY TextGrabber and Translator with the Giraffe Reader, StandScan Pro, and without any stand.

Both the StandScan Pro and the Giraffe Reader yielded good scans of the letter. When scanned without a stand, a portion of the document was translated correctly, but it was not nearly as accurate when compared with the Giraffe Reader or the StandScan.

When the contract was scanned, the Giraffe Reader provided a better result, but the StandScan Pro scan was still good. The scan without a stand was mostly unreadable.

When the magazine page was scanned, results from both the Giraffe Reader and StandScan Pro were similar. Scanning the document without a scanner resulted in a scan that was somewhat readable for only a fraction of the article.

The Bottom Line

The Giraffe Reader is a superior option if you have a compatible model of iPhone or iPod touch. It is very small, easily assembled, and delivers very good scans. Unlike the StandScan Pro, it does not require an AC adapter or battery.

Prizmo is a good OCR app. However, audio feedback was inconsistent. I have both Prizmo and ABBYY TextGrabber and Translator on my phone. I use ABBYY but Prizmo is certainly a good alternative.

Product Information

The Giraffe Reader

Available from: Giraffe Reader
Price: $54.50

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