Google’s Lookout app update adds languages and a more accessible design

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Google’s Lookout app on Android, which helps people who are blind or visually impaired identify their surroundings, is getting some new features to make it easier to read text on labels and signs, identify packaged foods by more than just their bar codes, and better identify currency notes. The app will also now run on any Android device with at least 2G of RAM running Android 6.0 or later.

As part of the update, Google is introducing a more accessible design for the app that makes it more compatible with its Android screen reader, TalkBack, based on feedback from the blind and low-vision community, according to Scott Adams, a product manager on Google’s accessibility engineering team. Lookout now provides more space for the camera view, making it easier for the user to frame an object they want more information about.

“Expanding this app to more people and devices is part of our commitment to make the world’s information universally accessible and to build helpful products with and for people with disabilities,” Adams said in a blog post.

The app, which launched last year on Pixel devices, uses artificial intelligence and a smartphone’s camera, applying the same technology as Google’s AI-powered Lens app. Lookout now has two new modes: scan document and food label. The updated app also includes new navigation that requires fewer taps by making it possible to scroll between the modes at the bottom of the screen.

With the updated food label mode, the app guides the user to position the item where the camera can identify it, and then a screen reader can speak the description aloud.

Phone shown in Food Label Mode. Image shows a hand holding a yellow food product and a blue dialog box reads mustard with pickles

Google’s Lookout app in improved food label mode.
Image: Google

Scan document mode captures a snapshot of a document to be read aloud by a screen reader, and the quick read feature can read a piece of mail, even if it’s upside down, as well as other short documents.

Smartphone is shown in quick read mode, reading “Happy Birthday” from a card with a penguin on it.

Lookout’s Quick Read mode.
Image: Google

Lookout’s currency identifier can distinguish between different denominations, identifying a $10 bill when folded for instance, as well as from the front and back of the bill. The currency identifier only supports US dollars at the present.

In addition to English, Lookout now works in French, German, and Spanish. It doesn’t yet support non-Roman alphabets like Cyrillic or Arabic, however.

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