Saturday, 19 March 2011

Snapanda: interesting dictionary/camera app for Android

In my last post I looked at various free dictionaries available for Android, and Snapanda is an interesting addition to the list while adding a fun twist.

The app allows you to use your phone's camera to focus on a word - say on a menu, poster or any other text you have in front of you - and when you touch that word on the screen, it will recognise it and give you the option to look it up in the dictionary.

In the picture you can see I touched the word 'issue'. This took me a few goes admittedly. Sometimes it just recognises a letter or nothing at all and certain fonts or background colours seem to cause it problems, but it does work around 70-80% of the time and given that it's still in beta, that's not bad. The accuracy does also seem connected to how well focussed the camera is on the word and also the stillness of your hand when pressing on the word. My shaky middle-aged fingers might be the cause of some of the problems and maybe those of you with a steadier hand might fare better. 

The actual dictionary section is fairly rudimentary, but at the same time well laid out and easy to read. It's not too technical and they have some decent examples. 

You can also click through to find some expressions/idioms related to the word and there's the option to add the word to a personalised word list. 

As you can see from the screenshots, the developers have gone for a bright and breezy look, not quite sure what about dictionaries screams 'panda' but what the hell, why not try to make dictionaries a little less dull. 

Overall, I think it's a fun app, I would question whether it is actually faster than just typing a word into the dictionary and finding the meaning, but the 'aint this cool?' novelty factor might make English students use it more and learn words when they are on the street, in shops or restaurants. 


  1. Hi David-

    Thanks for your review. You've given us some great feedback here, and as you've mentioned, it's still a beta panda, so feedback is something we truly do appreciate. :)

    Like any new tool, SnaPanda has a slight learning curve. After playing around with the app- learning how the panda likes to be held or how close the phone should be- most people are successful 8 or 9 out of 10 times in capturing words. A shaky coffee hand can throw a wrench in any camera-based app, though! :)

    Furthermore, the quality of the camera has a huge effect on results, as do other hardware specs on the speed of the "word grab". What kind of android do you have? With the newer phones it's always less than 2 seconds, then on wifi, the same for a definition.

    Thanks to you, and other recent feedback, we've decided to do some tests on how 1) new users vs a bit more experienced users perform 2) long/short words ---- impact snap-to-definition vs type-to-definition in accuracy and time required. Our lil' panda is growing up fast and accelerating his agility and effectiveness is of course, a top priority.

    We're really glad you enjoy "the cool/fun factor", and we hope likewise, it'll motivate more students, and help them along their English journey. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with us and your community, and have a great week! Cheers, Brad

  2. I wonder if Google's GOGGLES app can do similar? Not as basic, but, Search related or translation related off of words/text only?

    Has anyone tried it?

  3. Google goggles is a very cool app. Take a picture of a book and BOOM, it'll tell you where you can buy it, and all the details... same with some art, public places, and of course words.

    However for searching a word or phrase, it is translation-based and is not optimal for educational use as word-for-word translations lose all sense of context, and flatten the richness of a word. Furthermore, it's a quick fix, and there's no "save this" or "add to word list". Education requires a certain degree of repetition which GG doesn't offer.

    My two cents: great for someone not learning the language, and I would say "detrimental" for those that are.

  4. Your google play link doesn't work. Do you have the updated version?