We take our smartphone cameras for granted. We use them to stock our Instagram feeds, capture our vacations and document our daily lives for social media. But smartphone cameras have a big advantage over regular cameras: apps. The right app can harness your smartphone camera to conduct searches, tackle your shopping list, read a foreign language, or solve a math problem.
Check out these five unexpected ways to use your smartphone camera:
CamFind calls itself a “visual search engine.” It’s a bit like a regular internet search engine, except it uses images instead of words. The app is available for both Android and iOS phones. Open the app, snap a photo, and watch as it runs through keywords that identify what’s in the picture. It will then generate a list of similar images and related search results.
CamFind doesn’t always get everything exactly right, but it does take some good guesses and sometimes it’s dead-on accurate. It will change the way you think about doing internet searches.
2. Amazon App
Calling all Amazon addicts. If you don’t have the Amazon mobile shopping app, then you’re missing out on some cool camera tricks that can make purchasing easier. Click on the camera icon in the app’s search box to pull up your camera view. From here, choose which feature you want to access. You can search for products by snapping a photo, scan a barcode, or even check and redeem gift cards.
You can also use your camera to scan the shipping label on an Amazon box and find out what’s inside without opening it. The app verges into whimsical territory with its augmented-reality stickers option that lets you place digital objects into your surroundings. For example, you can see how that turntable-shaped cat scratcher would look in your living room. Naturally, you can order those items if you wish. If you’re a visual person, then this is a fun feature to play with.
3. eBay Image Search
You have a thing and you want another one. But what do you call that thing? Don’t worry. The eBay app is here to help. Just open it up and look at the end of the search box for a camera icon. Touch that and choose “image search.” This will open up your smartphone camera. Point it at the item you're looking for, take a photo, and crop it. The app will then search for auction listings that match the look of the item in your photo.
How accurate is eBay’s image search? It does an admirable job. We tested it out by snapping a picture of a plastic fox figurine and it returned a list of similar animal figurines. A photo of a metal storage cabinet generated a group of similar filing cabinets. It’s a great way to search eBay when you’re having trouble coming up with the right keywords to describe what you’re shopping for.
Math might not be your strong suit, but you don’t have to reach for a calculator every time you need to put some numbers together. The Photomath app lets you point your camera at an equation and get an answer. It can even show you the steps it took to find that answer. That’s a handy feature for students and people looking to improve their mathematical understanding.
You can use Photomath for simple subtraction, multiplication, addition, and division problems, but it can also tackle more complex equations. It can even read your handwriting so you can scribble down your math problem and let the app hand you the solution.
5. Google Translate
You’re traveling in a foreign country. Maybe you speak a smattering of the local language, or maybe you only know how to say “hello” and “where’s the restroom?” With the Google Translate app, you can quickly get your bearings even if you don’t speak the language.
The app’s extremely nifty instant camera translation feature works in 38 different languages. Start up the app, tap on the camera icon, and point the lens at what you’re trying to translate. It will magically change the text right on the screen. This is especially handy for street and store signs or menus in restaurants. The app isn’t just for Android, you can also get an iOS version. This can help turn you into a much more confident traveler.
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