Smartphone cameras are capable of more than just snapping images of drunken pals and sweeping landscapes.
Your camera can do everything from translate texts to scan paperwork with the correct apps. Learn about some of the world’s most useful superpowers.
TRANSLATE TEXT FROM A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
You must tap out text in a foreign language and then convert it to your local tongue, or vice versa, with a conventional translation tool.
This can be a time-consuming process, especially if a server is hanging nearby, ready to accept your meal order.
Here’s a better suggestion: Use your phone’s camera to scan the menu (or any other document) and see the translation right away.
With the free Google Translate software, you can perform this trick on any phone (for Android and iOS).
After downloading the application, launch it and select the languages you require.
From the drop-down menus at the top of the screen, select the language you’re translating from and the language you’d like to translate to.
You can also choose to allow the app to figure it out for you by selecting Detect Language.
Then, on the Camera screen, select Instant (which has a small camera-like icon next to it).
Finally, point your phone’s camera at the writing, whether it’s on a road sign or a piece of paper, and the translated words will appear on the screen.
This will work with 88 languages; if you’re experiencing difficulties, look at the list on this page.
If you have a Samsung Galaxy phone with version S20 or later, you may use the native camera app to perform the same feat, known as Live Translation.
Simply open it, select Auto mode, and hit the Bixby Vision button on the lower left-hand side of the screen, which resembles an eye.
After that, go to Text mode and point your camera at the document you wish to translate.
The language will be detected automatically by your phone, and the words will be translated into your phone’s default tongue.
EXPLORE THE SKY AT NIGHT
On a clear night, gazing up at the stars is magical, but you can make it even more so by figuring out which dot of light is which.
Your phone’s camera may be used as a star guide with the correct app.
Visual overlays will tell you whether the object you’ve observed is the International Space Station or the star Polaris if you point it at the sky.
Star Walk 2 (for Android and iOS) is our best recommendation, as it has a nicer look and more functionality than similar apps.
To pinpoint constellations, passing satellites, and other objects, it uses your position and data from the phone’s inbuilt gyroscope.
It can also be used to learn about the universe, examine 3D models of constellations, and more.
and see how the night sky changes as you advance or recede in time. The app is available for free with advertising or $3 without them.
AUGMENTED REALITY CAN BE ADDED
Want to see digital graphics superimposed on the world as seen through your phone camera? You have more choices than you’ve ever had before: Augmented reality is available on both Android and iOS, and third-party software developers have also hopped on the AR bandwagon.
Start with Snapchat to get a taste of augmented reality (free for Android and iOS).
Open the camera screen and tap anywhere on the scene after installing the photo and video messaging app.
With only a tap, Snapchat will show you a variety of AR stickers that you may preview.
Then, as usual, adjust your perspective, place the sticker where it would fit best, and snap a photo or video.
You can still enjoy AR on your phone if Snapchat isn’t for you.
Here are a few examples: PGA Tour AR (free, but exclusively for iOS) overlays golf holes on surrounding surfaces such as your kitchen counter.
Inkhunter (available for Android and iOS) allows you to preview tattoos on your skin before you put any needles in your skin.
and Ikea Place (free, but available on iOS) can place augmented reality copies of furniture in your actual homes so you can see how they look.
There’s also Pokemon Go (free on Android and iOS) and other augmented reality games.
PAPER DOCUMENTS CAN BE CONVERTED TO ELECTRONIC DOCUMENTS
Although the world has not yet gone paperless, you may help by converting paper documents to digital format.
You can scan anything from bank statements to business cards with your phone’s camera and store them on your phone or upload them to the cloud.
While you may always take images of papers and save them in the gallery of your default photo app,
Extra functions such as automatic cropping and even text recognition will be available through a dedicated app (so you can easily search through your scanned pages).
This guide to paperless applications and devices has a comprehensive selection of apps. We prefer Google Drive and Dropbox to the other products on the list.
The Android version of Google Drive can scan documents, while the iOS version cannot.
On Android, select Scan from the + icon. The program also includes automatic optical character recognition as a bonus.
Dropbox (free for Android and iOS) also has a built-in document scanning feature that makes use of your phone’s camera: Tap the + symbol above Create on the app’s home screen, then Scan document.
You can unlock automated optical character recognition and document-searching skills if you pay for any of the upgrades (ranging from $10 to $20).
With the help of Google Lens, which is included in Google Photos for Android and iOS,
You can take a picture of any object and get information about it.
To utilize this approach, open any image in Google Photos, then tap the Google Lens icon at the bottom of the screen, which looks like a simplified camera shape.
Whether it’s a historical landmark or a type of flower, the software will recognize it and provide information about it.
Consider it a visual search engine that can identify everything from celebrities to iconic works of art.
If you have a Google Pixel phone, you can also use Google Assistant to access Lens.
Hit the Assistant icon on the right end of the Google search bar, then tap the lower-right Google Lens button and point your camera at a target.
If the photographed object is the one you wish to learn more about, tap the screen, and information will appear on the display.
GO TO WEBSITES
You may open a webpage by photographing a QR code—those squares packed with a random-looking mosaic of black and white tiles.
Menus, packaging, posters, pamphlets, stationery, and other objects all have QR codes.
Scanning one of these boxes on a magazine advertisement, for example, may link to a website with additional information about the item or a special online price.
Users on both iPhone and Android can use the default camera app to point their phone at a QR code and look at the notification that shows. To learn more, including the hidden URL, tap it.
PERFORM THE ROLE OF WATCHDOG
Your phone may double as a security camera, monitoring your property, pets, and even children.
You’ll need two devices for this task: one to record the video feed and another to watch it.
It would be ideal to use an outdated device that has been collecting dust.
Manything is one of the best apps we’ve seen (for Android and iOS).
It allows you to view the Livestream from afar at any moment, and it can send notifications when motion is detected in front of the camera.
A monthly subscription, which ranges from $2 to $20, allows you to save footage to the cloud and set up several cameras.
We recommend the applications Dormi (for Android only) and Cloud Infant Monitor for baby monitoring (for iOS only).
Dormi allows you to connect to your monitoring phone or tablet from numerous devices, and when it detects crying, it immediately increases the volume.
The free version only allows you to monitor for four hours per month; beyond that, subscriptions cost $2 per month, $10 per year, or $17 for life.
You can also access a live video feed from any other device with Cloud Baby Monitor.
You may also receive notifications when the app detects motion or sound, as well as send audio messages to your child from a distance. It costs $5 to get started.
ADD TO YOUR MEMORY BANK
Even though this last app involves shooting images, they aren’t designed for Instagram or Facebook.
Instead, you can use photographs from your smartphone as memory aids. Consider how many times you’ve had to memorize new material.
such as your friend’s Wi-Fi code or the way your television’s cords fit into the back.
You could scribble notes on paper or use a notepad app, but taking a snapshot is quicker and more convenient.
Photograph the contents of boxes if you’re moving to a new place so you remember what’s packed where.
Make a note of your ski or park pass while on vacation in case you need to replace it.
Photograph your hotel’s list of emergency numbers for future reference while staying overnight.
Put these notes in a separate album to keep them organized.
Open My Albums on iOS, choose Edit, then tap the + icon in the top left to add a new album.
After giving the album a name and saving it, you may tap the share symbol in the bottom left corner of any photo (it looks like a square with an upward arrow), click Add to Album and select the album you want.
Then, no matter where you go, you’ll have the information you need close to hand, ready to use the next time you need it.
The simplest method to organize these memory aids on Android is to add them to Google Keep notes.
Simply open the app (which comes pre-installed on most Android phones) and select the image icon at the bottom of the screen.
Then, depending on whether you’ve previously taken a photo of what you want to remember, hit Take photo or Choose an image.
The photo will be immediately added to a note by the app. You’ll be able to add text to it and even make a widget for it on your home screen so you can access it at all times.
The Author is David Nield