Sep 08. 2020

Story Behind ScanScan: Huawei Developer Platforms Power Mobile App Accessibility

Tao Xinle is excited about the upcoming HUAWEI DEVELOPER CONFERENCE 2020 (Together), not only because he can share stories and thoughts with developers across the world at this annual event, but also because he will bring his new innovation to the HDC. It is a text recognition app called ScanScan that has been downloaded more than 9 million times in AppGallery.

ScanScan was born out of a romance. Three years ago, Tao quit his job in Beijing and moved to Yunnan Province to live with his girlfriend Baibai. As a book lover who enjoys reading and noting down her favorite sentences, she tried various types of OCR software but was frustrated by the complicated procedures, low precision, and high costs. Therefore, Tao decided to develop a handy OCR tool for her.

Tao used the white cat he raised with his girlfriend as the logo for ScanScan to symbolize their love and togetherness.

Story Behind ScanScan: Huawei Developer Platforms Power Mobile App Accessibility

Baibai giving feedback about ScanScan

As a beta user of ScanScan, Baibai offered a lot of useful feedback, which inspired Tao to add more functions to the original version, including document scanning, chart recognition, batch recognition, and translation.

During app development, Tao used the OCR and document correction capabilities powered by HUAWEI HiAI to improve the accuracy of text recognition and speed of boundary detection, and also integrated HMS Core's ML Kit, all free of charge. In addition to helping Tao save on resources, these two platforms also allowed the OCR feature to be compatible with various mobile phones, from low-end to high-end models, from Huawei brands to non-Huawei brands, even without the need to connect to a network.

The full-coverage capabilities provided by Huawei allow developers to develop features or apps compatible with all device models. ScanScan offers an offline recognition capability, which keeps user data safe with the recognized results stored locally on your phone, and allows users to use it anywhere, even in remote areas where the network signal is often patchy.

Story Behind ScanScan: Huawei Developer Platforms Power Mobile App Accessibility

Tao Xinle and Baibai trying out the app

At the very beginning, ScanScan aimed to offer more convenience to users like Baibai. However, it turned out to be a blessing for another unexpected group of users.

"ScanScan really helps me see the world," said Anzhi, a visually impaired user of the app. "I use it to read my schedule, musical notation, user guide for electronic device, and the label on medicine packets. Sometimes when I am not sure which floor I am on, ScanScan can help me identify the floor by taking a picture." Anzhi described her user experience with high praise for the app: "If I was only allowed to use one app on my phone, it would be ScanScan because it really helps me see more in my life."

By integrating HMS Core's AI capabilities and adapting to some accessibility functions on phones, ScanScan can easily recognize text in photos and convert it into audio output, which enables people with visual impairments to read in daily life. It also adds voice alerts to instruct users to adjust the camera angle for a more precise recognition result.

"When I found out that ScanScan can actually help people, it felt like I’ve done something worthwhile," said Tao.

Such powerful technology should be accessed by everyone, though it is sometimes still out of reach for certain groups. Accessibility features are crucial to apps, just like tactile paving is an indispensable part of our streets. By creating an app like ScanScan, Tao has demonstrated that he is as much of a pioneer as he is a developer who has paved the way for more newcomers.