Why Your iPhone Counting Objects Is Better Than You Think

It's one step forward

Key Takeaways

  • An upgrade to the iScanner app allows you to count objects automatically.
  • It’s one of a wide range of apps that use artificial intelligence to count objects. 
  • One developer says his son uses the app to count his coin collection.
Three hands demonstrating counting with fingers.

4FR / Getty Images

Drop a box of toothpicks on the floor, and your iPhone can now count just how many there are to pick up, thanks to a newly updated app. 

The Count mode on iScanner uses artificial intelligence (AI) to save time totaling up toothpicks or any other objects you might want to tally. The iScanner software is one of a growing number of AI-driven counting and tagging apps available. The ability to count things with your phone might be handier than you expect. 

"I remember reading about the update and didn't think much about it because I couldn’t think of a time when I would need to use it," Andreas Grant, a network security engineer who works with AI, said in an email interview.

"But lo and behold, I was wrong; my son was ecstatic when he found a way of counting all his coins easily."

Counting the Counting Apps

iScanner is a free app, but to use the Count mode, you’ll need to pay $9.99 a month or $19.99 for a Pro mode subscription. But, there are a bunch of other apps available that will also count objects with your iPhone. For example, there’s  Chooch IC2, an app that uses visual AI to count and tag items.

"One member of our team is very interested in gardening, and she often uses the app to identify plants and flowers," Emrah Gultekin, the CEO and co-founder of Chooch, said in an email interview. "IC2 will even give you the Latin names." 

Someone manually counting change.

MichaelDeLeon / Getty Images

IC2 itself is potentially a significant advance in AI for personal use because it puts AI in the palm of your hand, Gultekin said. You can train the app to count and recognize new objects.

"AI training seems very esoteric when you call it 'object recognition training,' but when you see it in action on IC2, it makes AI training real," Gultekin said. "You can even look under your profile and see the things you’ve trained."

The app CountThings, claims to automate the counting process from videos as well as still photos. The company that makes the app says that it's used in different industries, for example, to count the number of logs in a pile. 

Tally Up Your Soft Drinks

If you’re really into counting things, you might want to check out IBM’s Maximo Visual Inspection software. The app can detect and label objects within an image.

"Imagine that you’re a supplier of an item (such as a soft drink), and you want to know how many bottles there are on a store’s shelf," writes developer Mark Sturdevant on IBM’s website

Don’t trust AI to count things for you? The American Museum of Natural History has released DotDotGoose, a free, open-source tool to manually count objects in images.

"The DotDotGoose interface makes it easy to create and edit classes of objects to be counted, and you can pan and zoom to accurately place points to label individual objects," according to the museum’s website

I don’t see this feature as anything revolutionary in AI, but rather another step in AI technology.

In a Black Mirror vein, the company Density offers hardware and software that counts the number of people in a building. Its Safe application is meant to ensure that not too many people are in a building at the same time to enforce social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrew Farah, Density CEO, wrote on the company’s website that, "We're working to keep meat processing plants, distribution centers, manufacturers, offices, universities, even an entire village in Ohio open and safe."

AI has long been able to count objects, Grant said, but having the ability to count things on your smartphones can be useful. "I don’t see this feature as anything revolutionary in AI, but rather another step in AI technology," he added. "The fact that this ability is made efficient and compact enough to work on iPhones is a clear improvement."

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