Those folks over at 9to5Mac are at it again. After single handedly revealing the unannounced iOS 5 Nuance and Siri features, they have uncovered another secret project that Apple is working on.

Apparently, the Cupertino company is looking to release an application that would turn your iDevice into a digital scanner. Patent filings have suggested its interest in such an app, but 9to5Mac got the skinny from a source inside Apple…

Here’s how it works:

1. The user opens the app and holds the iPhone over the document or object they want scanned. They then snap a picture of it. Apple’s on-board software then resizes the image to ‘letter’ or business card, A4 or whatever depending on original document. Resizing includes aligning edges that get skewed by a single scan point rather than traditional scanning methods. The user can then manually change the size of the document or the use (biz card?)

2. On board software then separates images blocks from text.

3. This is where it gets murky. At last word, Apple was trying to do OCR both on-device and using alternative cloud methods for recognizing text. Third party Optical Character Recognition (OCR) vs. in house solutions were also being tested.

4. The resulting file can then be saved as a PDF, .Pages, exported to contacts (in the case of the business cards for example).

There’s been no word yet on if the application will be bundled with iOS 5, the iWork suite, or offered as a standalone title. Regardless of its release strategy, the news has to be devastating for makers of third party scanning apps.

Not only would a native application from Apple tie directly in with Contacts and the iWorks bundle, users wouldn’t have to deal with external software. Not to mention that it sounds like Apple has been putting years worth of research into this.

I personally haven’t found a way to utilize a scanning app. I generally work from home, so I don’t see many business cards, and I can’t see scanning full-sized documents with my phone. That would take ages. We’ll see what kind of spin Apple puts on the concept.

Would you be interested in an Apple-flavored scanning app?

  • Kelvin

    Genius Scan already offers much of the same capability (but generally low quality, especially since I only own an iPod touch); I’m wondering how well Apple’s OCR would work though…

    • Love your avatar. I ❤ Cyanide & Happiness! ⚇ ☻

      • Kelvin

        Totally. 😀

  • raphael

    I have been using Scanner Pro for awhile now and find it tremendously useful. I don’t scan often enough to invest in a scanner but have used my phone to scan documents whenever something needs to be signed and sent back to someone. I am VERY excited for the possibility of OCR!

  • Jeremy

    Yes! I use Genius Scan with my iPhone4, and I don’t find the quality too bad actually. It’s great for small quick jobs. I have an incredible sheet-feeder scanner (Fujitsu ScanSnap, the best!), but don’t bother traveling with a flatbed–GS does the trick. I almost went for Scanner Pro but a reviewer said he thought Genius Scan yielded better quality images. I definitely have turned the “enhance” feature off in GS. I am very interested in Apple’s scanner app, though I doubt it will be better than DevonThink Pro Office’s OCR, which is better than professional grade. Would be nice to have OCR on the handheld, however.

  • Chris

    This might be a dumb question but what is OCR and what is the point of it?

    • Kikaida

      OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition.

      It is a type of program that is used to convert an image of text into editable text.

      More advanced programs may try to preserve fonts and layouts.

  • Marko

    scanner pro does the job fine. and some of the card scanners use pretty good OCR for business cards (i use worldcard but theres plenty other options that integrate with contacts etc).
    Most of my stock apple apps have been replaced with 3rd party (notes, contacts, calendar etc) so even if apple incorporate this i cant see me using it.

  • Jason Masters

    Yes the iPhone 4 currently does an excellent job with the OCR app I can only imagine it being that much better! I once had to sign papers and email them I scanned the page and sent it all via my iPhone now that’s an app!

  • SimonOrJ

    How about fingerprint security for iPhone?