Math is one of the hardest subjects in school, which is why owning a graphing calculator seems like a necessity for students. But what if you could use your smartphone to solve equations by pointing the camera at the problem in your textbook instead of using a graphing calculator? That is the idea behind PhotoMath. PhotoMath is a free mobile app that can read and solve mathematical expressions using your smartphone camera in real time.
PhotoMath may sound like it is simply helping kids cheat, but the app also provides a step-by-step guide showing how each of the problems are solved. The step-by-step guide is beneficial to students that do not have access to a tutor and struggle with solving math problems. Parents can also use the PhotoMath app to jog their memory when teaching math to their kids.
“PhotoMath currently supports basic arithmetics, fractions, decimal numbers, linear equations and several functions like logarithms. New math is constantly added in new app releases,” says the description of the PhotoMath app on iTunes. The PhotoMath app uses optical character recognition (OCR) technology to read the equation and calculates the answers within seconds. There is a red frame in the PhotoMath app that you have to use to capture the equation.
PhotoMath’s ability to read math problems has its limitations. PhotoMath can only read printed text so your handwritten notes cannot be solved by the app. When I tested out PhotoMath on an order of operations equation, the app kept on mistaking the “X” variable as the multiplication symbol. The red frame also causes limitations because there may not be enough spacing between two separate math problems in the textbook to capture the equation that you want.
Here is a video demo of how PhotoMath works:
Microblink, the London-based company behind PhotoMath, plans to use the same technology to build apps for online banking in the future. Aside from the PhotoMath app, Microblink also works with a number of customers across 30 countries to set up “computer vision technology” for their mobile apps. For example, Microblink integrated its PhotoPay technology to eliminate manual data entry for bill payments with several major European Union banks. Another app that Microblink developed — which is called PDF417 Barcode Scanner — lets users scan 1D barcodes, 2D barcodes and QR codes.
The PhotoMath app is available for free on iOS and Windows Phone now, but the Android version will be released next year.
What are your thoughts about the PhotoMath app? Do you think it is a useful resource for learning or will it make students lazier? Let us know in the comments below!