bing vision

While the vast majority of changes to Windows Phone 8.1 have been a welcome gust of fresh air to our phones, there are some things that take getting used to. The fact that Cortana doesn’t have Bing Vision may be chalked up to it being in ‘beta’, although we hope Microsoft at some point brings the feature back to search. The Bing service is used by many people on this site for scanning our app QR codes at the end of articles, so not having it readily available is a turnoff.

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Those who grabbed Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers have been greeted with a collection of new features and updates to drool over, but one of our past beloved features has also seemed to disappear. After downloading the Developer Preview, you will notice that Bing search has been replaced by the very capable Cortana, but the ability to scan QR codes has seemed to disappear along with her arrival.

The well-loved Bing Vision featured has not been removed, but simply placed elsewhere. We are going to show you how to access Bing Vision on your device running Windows 8.1, along with three alternative third party apps that can get the job done!

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We've seen the improvement coming in "Mango" to Bing, which are nothing short of impressive: Vision, Scout, Music, info cards, images, etc. But (and it's a big but) some of those services won't work everywhere in the same fashion. We're talking of course about Scout and Bing Vision. Specifically on the latter, we know it won't do movie posters, books, CDs, barcodes etc only MS Tags and QR codes outside of the US. That's a huge bummer for many as Bing Vision works quite well.

Reader Leon Y. writes in to let us know that these services are not available in Canada--at least on the Mango 7712 ROM. It's actually very simple:

"I currently have the dev build 7712 and I don't know if it works in the RTM build. Also I think this works because I speak English and not another language.

Here's how to do it: Go into the Region+languages in the settings and change the browser & search language to English (United States) and hit the back button to save the changes. The local scout works like a charm and the Bing vision is amazing. I think this will work in other English speaking countries. I don't see a reason for Microsoft disabling this feature for other countries other that the US. I just wanted to share this discovery with everyone"

Anyone else want to confirm and share their experience? It's odd that Local Scout will actually pull info down in countries where it's not available in the OS. We hope for a least a handful of you this will enable these awesome features and that other countries will soon get these services as well.

Update: Works in Germany according to reader @Cyrus1989

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Over at iStartedSomething, Long Zheng posted a nice little clip from Microsoft Research dealing with 2D object recognition, which for those who have been following, is instantiated in Windows Phone "Mango" as Bing Vision (see demo). The tool of course allows to you scan various 2D objects like CDs, DVDs, posters, barcodes, etc. which can then access a database for pricing and product info.

In this brief segment, Rick Szeliski from Microsoft Research’s Interactive Visual Media group goes into detail of how this works. While it's some heady stuff, most of you should be able to watch the ~4 minute segment and get an understanding of how this stuff happens and what the current limitations are--specifically 3D objects and "generics" likes recognizing your pet or people.

While Google has had Goggles for awhile and all of this is based on pre-existing tech, it's neat to see it explained. Plus it doesn't take the magic away when you actually use Bing Vision on your phone (as anyone who has demoed this to a non-techy can attest too). Pretty amazing work when you think about it.

Read moe at iStartedSomething

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Okay, this Bing Vision thing is really nice. Although augmented reality apps and one that scan are not new to the world (see Google Goggles), the way Microsoft does this on Bing is actually very elegant.

For one, we like how the overlay works when it finds what it's looking for. Just something really nice about the transparency and the items "floating" there. Second, the camera sensor works very well, even in low-light with little "re-adjustment" needed by the user. Barcodes read a bit better than CD cases or books, but even the latter should scan fine on a bookshelf in the store.

Finally, we also just like how it scans anything. You just point it at a CD, book or barcode and it just reads it. There's no settings, not select-format, it just works.

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We kept emphasizing at MIX11 that the information revealed there was geared for developers, not so much consumers and that we expected more details to come forward over time. Combined with the fact that Mango/WP7.5 is not yet finished nor finalized, it's feature-set is still in motion but becoming more solid as we get closer to it going 'Gold'.

On the Windows Phone Developer Podcast, a plethora of new features were announced that will really bring Windows Phone up to par with the competition:

  • Bing Audio: Think Shazam, but built into Bing and we bet of course Zune Marketplace. Country support is initially limited to the U.S., Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Germany.
  • Bing Vision: A full blown image scanner using your camera. It can detect, identify and search using barcodes, Microsoft Tags, QR Codes, CD’s, DVDs, Books, and text using OCR (see here for history)
  • Turn-by-turn navigation: “voice guidance during driving directions” (we heard about this awhile ago)
  • SMS Dictation: Using Microsoft's TellMe service, you can use voice-to-text for SMS messages by tapping a microphone near the bottom

According to Paul Thurrott, who detailed the above, there's a lot more to the podcast, so take a listen. And your thoughts in comments: does this change things?

Update: See info regarding Windows Live Messenger, Skydrive & more in WP7.5 here

Source: Windows Phone Dev Podcast; via Windows Phone Secrets

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