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Patent Suggests Apple Could Introduce Scanner Functions to iOS

Apple patent for iPhone scanner feature

There are a huge collection of application in the App Store that introduce a handy scanner to your iOS device, and contrary to popular opinion, some of them work incredibly well. That 5-megapixel camera on your iPhone 4 will actually do a pretty impressive job of scanning anything from a tiny business card to a large A4 letter. So impressive, in fact, that Apple is working on a scanner feature of its own.

In a newly surfaced patent discovered by Patently Apple, Apple describes how an iPhone could be used “as a mouse or scanner.” According to 9to5 Mac, the feature will work just like those in third-party apps: you simply take a picture of the document you wish to scan, and then Apple’s software then works its magic:

  1. The user opens the app and holds the iPhone over the document or object they want scanned.  They then snap a picture of it.  Apple’s on-board software then resizes the image to ‘letter’ or business card, A4 or whatever depending on original document.  Resizing includes aligning edges that get skewed by a sigle scan point rather than traditional scanning methods.  The user can then manually change the size of the document or the use (biz card?)
  2. On board software then separates images blocks from text.
  3. This is where it gets murky.  At last word, Apple was trying to do OCR both on-device and using alternative cloud methods for recognizing text.  Third party Optical Character Recognition (OCR) vs. in house solutions were also being tested.
  4. The resulting file can then be saved as a PDF, .Pages, exported to contacts (in the case of business cards for example).

The advantage with having Apple build a feature like this into the iOS operating system is that it could integrate with other iPhone applications. For example, when you scan a business card, it could send the information straight to your Contacts — rather than storing it in a third-party app.

As for that mouse feature, this seems to also work like the many third-party mouse applications currently available, in that it would turn your iPhone into trackpad for your Mac.

Both features, I believe, would be great additions to the iOS operating system. What do you think?

[via 9to5 Mac]

Killian Bell

Killian Bell is a 20-something technology journalist based in a tiny town in England. He has an obsession with that little company in Cupertino...