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A project log for TextEye: Raspberry Pi (Zero) Mobile Textreader

A mobile text scanner/reader for people with severe visual impairments

Markus DieterleMarkus Dieterle 04/29/2016 at 12:540 Comments

In the last few weeks my daytime job has kept me pretty buzy, mostly with a huge multi-month project that has just entered the "hot" phase.

While this stops me from being able to work on the TextEye project as often as I'd like to, and will continue to do so at least until August this year, I haven't abandoned the TextEye project and will continue to work on it.

Thanks to everyone who's been following this project so far - I hope you'll bear with me and keep coming back.

For today's log I'll just do a short status update. Luckily, I had already planned a one week vacation period for the next week since January this year, so I should be able to give this project a much needed boost.

So what's the status?

Software status

On the software side, I've created the basic structure for my "workflow" application and started to write a special C++ class for that which is designed to be flexible enough to easily switch out external and internal application components for creating, processing and OCR'ing the images etc. It's not finished though, and I'm currently thinking about creating a smaller, much simpler prototype app in order to speed things up a little.

I also found an interesting, open source image processing app which is aimed at optimizing pictures for "digitizing" books and magazines. The software is called ScanTailor, and while it's not the newest piece of software, the last GitHub updates did not happen that long ago and it seems usable enough.

On the downside though, it's essentially a desktop application which needs the visual checks to either acknowledge the automatically proposed optimiziations or do manual optimizations. With that, it can really optimize text images well enough to be usable for an OCR program. I have to take a closer look and maybe do some testing - if it has some command line options and could perform some of the needed image optimizations automatically, it may still be a usable option for preprocessing the camera images.

Hardware status

With the exception of the pHat DAC board from Pimoroni which hasn't surfaced yet, I've now got all necessary components for the prototype. The only other exception is a custom housing, but I plan to work on designing that after I have a working prototype.

The hardware is not fully assembled yet, but I should be able to finish it in the next few days, at least far enough to do some initial testing.

On the camera side, the Raspberry Pi foundation just released two new Pi camera modules on Monday this week: https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/new-8-megapixel-camera-board-sale-25/

While the Pi camera modules are designed to only work with the special camera connector slots on the Pi Model A+, B+, 2 and 3 - leaving out the Pi Zero - this is still an interesing option to use with the A+ (and maybe a 2 or 3 A+ version once one of those becomes available - which I'm hoping for). Consequently, I've ordered both the normal and the "NoIR" version just yesterday. I'm curious to see the kind of image quality that these newer sensors can provide. The modues come with integrated automatic white balance and the maximum resolution for stills is clearly better than what the external webcams can currently do (as there are no external 4K or higher resolution options for that at the moment).

So once the basic hardware and software setup is working, I can see myself designing more than one reference platform design - one following my original design idea, with variations for the Pi Zero and the A+, another one using the Pi A+ and Pi camera, and possibly even a camera-less design that can be modified for being used with different digital point-and-shoot cameras. I've started working with OnShape a while ago while the service was still in beta, and I feel comfortable enough right now to consider creating my own designs for a custom case (or two or three... ;) ).

It might take a while though...

Moving on...

I have to see what I can to in the next few days in order to move the project forward. It's not the only thing I need to do, so it's difficult to say how much I can get done. We'll have to see...

I definitely plan to post further logs next week, so stay tuned...

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