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Equation Solver Camera App

Take a picture, solve the equation.
  [vote for,

This smartphone app solves a recognized equation written down by capturing and translating a picture of it into a solver, like Wolfram Alpha for instance.

Category suggestions welcome.

RayfordSteele, Dec 11 2011

math handwriting recognition http://detexify.kir...s.org/classify.html
[mouseposture, Dec 11 2011]

Is there *anything* Mathematica can't do? http://reference.wo...athRecognition.html
(Actually, Windows is doing it.) [mouseposture, Dec 13 2011]

The Digital Desk http://video.google...5772530828816089246
A friend's work for Xerox in the early 90s. Worth watching. [theircompetitor, Dec 13 2011]


       Big Bang Theory did that.
nineteenthly, Dec 11 2011

       Interesting. Never watch it, because the wife hates it.
RayfordSteele, Dec 11 2011

       [+] For equations, a keyboard is still less convenient than pen-and-paper. Handwriting- recognition for mathematical symbols would be needed, but that's feasible, especially since the usefulness of this would motivate compromises (e.g. modify one's handwriting).   

       Might require an interface like predictive text, where the software guessed at what you meant, and you accepted/rejected its guess. Since this will use online equation solvers, it can also use an online handwritten math-symbol-recognizer <link>
mouseposture, Dec 11 2011

       Will this lead to Damn You Auto Correct equation humor?
normzone, Dec 11 2011

       The linked Android app screenshots don't show equations, rather expressions. Those do, however have a simple correspondance with a subset of trivial equations.   

       In defense of this idea, the distinction between trivial and nontrivial equations bears on whether this idea is baked. Because the problems it solves are trival, the computational engine of that app isn't an equation solver, and doesn't need to be online -- it's just a 4(?)-function calculator. The idea proposed here is to harness the power of a real online equation solver, like Wolfram Alpha: a significant difference, IMO.   

       Even the OCR part of that app, which is where it comes closest to baking this idea, is a long way from reading nontrivial equations. The spatial arrangement in *two* dimensions, of math symbols has significance unlike conventional OCR. Size of symbols also carries meaning. Not to mention "Where" or "Let" clauses, or equation systems.
mouseposture, Dec 11 2011

       <tongue in cheek>
While this is definitely a good idea, unfortunately most mathematicians equation 'writing' is more akin to chicken scratching, so the recognition part will need to be VERY clever, to turn said mess into a coherent equation, that the maths part of the software can deal with.
</t i c> I would suspect, as [mouseposture] noted, that 'proper' equation recognition (output compatible with some maths software) would be a far harder task than ordinary handwriting recognition.
neutrinos_shadow, Dec 12 2011

       Perhaps enforcement of writing on lined paper. Of course the recognizer could output its interpreted equation into LaTex, MathCad, or other formats.
RayfordSteele, Dec 12 2011

       Didn't they deveop one of these on one of the episodes of The Big Bang Theory?
Dub, Dec 12 2011

       You know, I think they did it on the Big Bang Theory.
RayfordSteele, Dec 12 2011

       At their simplest, mathematical equations are dificult to read, frequently with arbitrary or ambiguous symbols. Whoever started teaching basic multiplication using an x as the operator symbol has a lot to answer for, the difference between a manually written mu and u is often invisible even for people with neat handwriting, and I had at least one text book that used N for at least 5 different variables depending on context (admittedly in different equations, but still). In addition, the difference between 1+x/5 and (1+x)/5 is frequently hard to determine in hand written equations, per [mouse]'s second anno above.   

       Getting this to work on printed equations would eliminate some, but not all of these problems, as simple font differences can still confuse symbols, and it won't help with symbol ambiguity.
MechE, Dec 12 2011

       Actually, turns out Windows 7 does mathematical handwriting recognition from tablet or touchscren input <link>, and there's 3rd party software that'll do it on OSX. Judging by the quantity of technical literature on the subject, though, it appears that doing this really *reliably* is not yet a solved problem
mouseposture, Dec 13 2011

       They should do this on the Big Bang Theory.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 13 2011

       //Is there *anything* Mathematica can't do? //   

       Yes, Beat Matlab. ;-)
RayfordSteele, Dec 13 2011

       I'm still waiting for the app that will look at a picture of an object and tell me what the hell it is. Strangely, I think these two apps might turn out to be remarkably similar in design.
Alterother, Dec 13 2011


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