My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How Microblink's PhotoMath App Solves Algebraic Math Equations and makes Online Banking Safer

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How Microblink's PhotoMath App Solves Algebraic Math Equations and makes Online Banking Safer

“Children can use it as a tool which helps them to learn Math, while parents can use it to check the homework to their children. With PhotoMath, you can have a Math teacher in your pocket”

Excerpt from the description of PhotoMath updated Saturday October 25th 2014 on the Apple iTunes Store

Math Teachers at the MICO University College, you just got replaced by PhotoMath, the World's First Camera Calculator. High School students; now would be a good time to cancel those Math Extra Lessons classes or get a Windows Phone or Apple iPhone smartphone, whichever you can do first!

Remember Season 4, Episode 12 of The Big Bang Theory entitled the Bus Pants Utilization when the Gang wanted to make an App suggested by Leonard Hofstadter that could solve any mathematics equation? Here’s the video to jog your memory!

Well, for the math-challenged, rejoice, as your Christmas and relief from the drudgery of solving complex algebraic mathematical problems is over!

Microblink, the London-based company behind the PhotoPay Technology used for automated Bill Payment in European Banks, has decided to use its technology for evil by developing an App that solves mathematical equations as reported in the article “PhotoMath Is A Free App That Can Solve Equations Through Smartphone Cameras”, published 10/22/2014 7:58PM, by Amit Chowdhry, Forbes.

The free App, billed as the world's first Camera Calculator, is currently only available for Apple iPhones and not Google Android smartphones, can be seen as either a Student's little helper or a Math Teacher's Nightmare as described in the article “Use your phone's camera to solve equations with PhotoMath”, published October 28, 2014 11:01 AM PDT by Matt Elliott, CNET News.

It can solve arrange of mathematical problems:

1.      Basic arithmetic
2.      Fractions
3.      Decimal numbers
4.      Linear equations
5.      Logarithms

The website for PhotoMath pitches the product and the accompanying video explains in greater detail how PhotoMath Works:

Basically it uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) from another App that they developed called PDF417 Barcode Scanner that reads 1D barcodes, 2D barcodes and QR codes to read the algebraic Math Equation on printed pages recognize it and solve the equation for the unknown.

How to use PhotoMath – Algebraic Equations a Step at a time with a Math App Teacher

There are four (4) buttons on the screen:

1.      History
2.      Light
3.      Steps
4.      Help

History is just like the one in your computer Browser; it keeps track of the previous mathematics equations you’ve solved. The light just turns on your smartphone Camera light so as to allow you to solve equations in the dark. 

Steps to me is the best part; it can show you in steps how to solve the equation. And of course Help assists you with the App, albeit in my book, if you need help using this simple App, then no Math teacher, real or AI (Artificial intelligent) can help you with your math problems!

The instructions for use are quite straightforward:

1.      Place the equation with the red square frame, dragging the frame to enclose the entire equation while holding your hand steady
2.      PhotoMath will then solve the equation and display the answer onscreen
3.      Tap the Steps button, swiping up or down to view the Steps to solve the equation

First off the bat, I'd like to say it would be great if it I had a Social Media element where math-minded peeps could also hold conversation about Math equations and explore different aspects of Mathematics. A Developer Platform would also be good, as this has uses beyond just solving mathematical equations but also applications in 3D Geometry as well.

More updates are coming, so it’s early days yet as to what the developers of PhotoMath  have in store for the mathematically-challenged. That being said, PhotoMath does have limitations though:

1.      It can only read printed text, not written text or test on a printed screen, unlike the App proposed in the show the Big Bang Theory
2.      It needs refinement, as it often mistakes the “x” unknown in the equation for the multiplication sign
3.      Has difficulty identifying the unknown in the equation, albeit it solves for the value of the unknown
4.      The  red coloured Frame may not be large enough the capture all of the equation.

Microblink PhotoMath - How OCR can make Online Banking Simpler and Safer

Microblink PhotoMath, as simple as it looks, is harnessing the full power of all those cores in your smartphone.

Their technology is a lot like MadBits, a company that Twitter purchased as they specialize in the emergent field of Artificial Vision that involves the development of AI (Artificial Intelligence) Systems that can extract data from images as explained in my blog article entitled “Twitter buys Madbits – How Torch7 powered Artificial Vision will make Twitter more like Facebook

Microblink knows this; they plan to use their PhotoMath App and its technology to build Apps to enable online banking using Credit Cards.

Instead of having to enter your Credit Cards, possibly such an App would automatically scan your Credit Cards details and utilize them on online shopping websites such as Amazon or even Facebook and Twitter's soon-to-come Buy Button as described in my blog article entitled “Twitter’s one-click Buy Button – How One-Click E-Commerce is Twitter’s Great Smurfberry Scam Confessions of a Shopaholic”.

But in the meantime, you can try out this App that Microblink built which the Gang on the Big Bang Theory never got around to making that’s available on the Apple iTunes Store and the Windows Phone Store, with a Google Android App set to be released in 2015.

MicroBlink YouTube Channel

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