Time Magazine, Forbes and Business Insider have all written about them. They’ve even been featured on the smash US TV program, The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Well, many of us dreamed about a magical solution to our math homework when we were kids, right? Now, thanks to PhotoMath it’s finally become a reality. Ok, it’s not quite magic – but, besides the world’s media, both math lovers and math haters are getting a kick out of PhotoMath, a new app that can help solve mathematical equations with a quick click of a button. If you think that sounds too easy, rest assured that it’s much more than that. It’s an app that can also help you learn how to solve difficult problems through step-by-step instructions. All you need to do is point your phone’s camera at the problem, and PhotoMath will help you through it.
We were lucky enough to score a chat with PhotoMath’s developers, PhotoPay, to find out more about how this helpful little app came into our lives and what’s in store for the future. Read on to find out what they had to say.
What inspired you to develop PhotoMath and what was your role in the process?
We were developing mobile OCR technology and were using it for mobile bill payments in several banks in a way where users just point mobile phone camera toward an invoice, and all data is captured in a snap and the invoice is ready to be paid. At that time we wanted to expand technology use to other areas but were lacking a true showcase app.
One of the colleagues got an idea that he would really need an app for instant math problems solving, as he is often checking his kid’s math homework. This idea tumbled across the team and then we saw a local AppCampus event. We decided to give the idea a try at an AppCampus event in Osijek, and there the mentors liked the PhotoMath idea. In few months we got funded by AppCampus which allowed us to focus on development, and the app was born.
There’s been some discussion about the app doing students’ homework for them. What is your opinion about this?
Someone who wants to cheat will always find a way to cheat with any tool. Our intention for PhotoMath is to help kids and their parents to learn math in a new way with the use of a phone. Very often kids do not have anyone to ask for math help, or the parents are not knowledgable enough and PhotoMath should help in those cases.
What was the development process like?
The development process was in two stages. The first stage was mostly research and development on OCR technology for 2 to 3 years, and then about 6 months of developing a math engine and an app.
Three young developers were working full-time with the assistance of us three “elders” who guided product development.
What kind of app would you develop if you had unlimited resources and an unlimited budget?
As our focus is on machine vision technologies on mobile phones, we have a lot ideas in that area. For example, number one would be an app that can recognise food by just taking a picture and gives related options (serious ones such as information on calories and nutrients, and less serious such as posting your food to your social network buddies).
Second example could be a robot which is autonomously crawling your home or office and indexing all things and text around you. Then you could ask your robot/app: “where have I put my glasses?”
Third example could save lives. These days people often walk the street with eyes focused on their mobile phone. People cross streets this way and are exposed to traffic accidents. Imagine a guardian app that would use your mobile camera and microphone to look at your surroundings and notifies you on-screen (as you are screen-focused) when there is a step or you are approaching a cross road.
What is the next thing in the pipeline for PhotoMath and PhotoPay?
We are working two-fold, improving PhotoMath and OCR quality along with adding support for more difficult maths, as well as working to release machine vision SDK so that other developers can build their apps by using our technology.
If you haven’t given PhotoMath a try just yet, be sure to check it out. For those of you that are just as amazed as we are by the app, let us know in the comments what you think.