Curious about the ways in which a scanner app might ease research, I decided to try Genius Scan for Android. This free app created by The Grizzly Labs makes use of the phone’s built-in camera. Essentially, scanner applications allow the user to take digital photographs, immediately process them for optimal quality and export them in different formats.
So, when would you choose a scanner application from your mobile device? Anytime you need to quickly capture a physical reference to access later. You might come across a fragment in a printed book or newspaper, but are unable to check it out or photocopy it because it is a fragile, non-circulating or archival resource. The fragment may be short enough that a quick scan with an app would take less time than a trip to a crowded copy station. Other users report on using this app to record handwritten notes from paper or a whiteboard.
My project was to try Genius Scan for the capture of a passage in a book that I might otherwise not want to place in a photocopier for fear of damaging the binding. A book placed on a true flatbed scanner would have ideal lighting conditions, but since this would be a digital photograph I knew that better initial lighting conditions would only make the product easier to work with. Because of this I tried to place the book somewhere well-lit in order to photograph the pages I was interested in. Once captured, an orange grid-shaped cropping tool pops up. And this is where the “genius” part of Genius Scan comes in, as far as I am concerned. This tool also allows the user to define angled fields that are then tilted for perspective-correction. This is especially useful in the case of a book, especially one that is very large or tightly bound.
I found that when the image is as closely cropped near the text, and nothing is visible beyond the page, the application can more easily render the text readable. Here’s how my scan turned out, despite being scanned at an angle:
Once the image is cropped, tilted and enhanced, the result can then be stored in the app, emailed or exported to other applications as a JPG, single-page or multi-page PDF file. I found myself using the black and white enhancement option most often as I found that the result was crisp, high contrast and easy to read. This might be useful if I was planning to use OCR (optical image recognition) to transcribe or translate a portion of text. ScanToText is an example of an OCR app that can be used to extract a portion of editable text from a document created with Genius Scan.
Genius Scan was intuitive to learn and easy to navigate. The free version does have some advertisements but I did not find them overly intrusive. Users can upgrade to a premium version as well which allows them to export files created with Genius Scan to cloud storage applications like Dropbox and Evernote.