Help for the study | IRISPen 7 Air OCR pen scanner reader

Those who study a foreign language know well how much time and energy are lost in copying or translating the texts that we find in school books, exercise books, paper books we read.
Unfortunately, it was only after several years of study that I discovered OCR scanner pens such as the IRISPen 7 Air.
There are many other models available, but I preferred to rely on a brand like IRIS which has a long history of scanner readers.
The other models seemed more recent to me, but I preferred a brand that would give me a guarantee of use over time, being an investment for the long term.
I will use it to facilitate the translation of the Norwegian exercise texts, instead my wife as a support for the study.
At school or university they require – for example – to report the sources, so you have to copy a good portion of the text, a sometimes long and tiring job. Also, when you study – in a language you are learning – subjects like math, literature, history and science, there are many words you don’t know. The time and energy you spend hours and hours are enormous.

IRISPen 7 Air – Unboxing

IRISPen 7 Air comes with:
– a mini-manual that basically brings you back to downloading the software from their site
– a USB dongle required for connection via bluetooth and the computer
– a USB cable for charging, also useful for connecting it to your computer if you don’t want to use the USB dongle

NB. Be careful to connect the USB dongle only when the software asks you (otherwise you may have problems with the drivers and the detection of the pen).

Software: installation and configuration

Once the software has been downloaded (about 300 Mb), the installation explains its use and accompanies us in some examples of use. I must say very well done and very useful.

NB. The installation software has created some problems for me on Windows 10, because I believe it is the same one made for Windows 95.
I solved it by unpacking (right mouse button> extract to desktop) the exe file I had downloaded (it’s just a compressed archive after all), and I ran the “setup.exe” file in the folder.
After several attempts to start the installation, I realized that I would have to double-click on the button that indicated the installation of the software and wait a couple of seconds, something in my opinion a bit strange and certainly improved. Honestly, if I hadn’t been a technician I think I would have gone into confusion and would have returned the pen saying it doesn’t work.

Apart from that we have installed it on two different PCs with Windows 10 without any pen detection problem.
I really enjoyed the last passage where it shows the “behind the scenes”, which I think is very useful to “non-technical” people, as “magic” happens.
The software allows you to choose the interface language, the language we want to scan, and if we want to scan text, images or barcode.
I remember the importance of setting the right language you are scanning, otherwise the detection could be poor. For example not all letters exist in all languages, accents, etc. Setting the right language makes detection easier.

Text detection quality

The detection of the texts I must say is better than what I expected, the transcription errors are negligible. It is not perfect, but acceptable. In some cases in Norwegian it does not detect non-Latin letters (such as ø and å).
Scanning of texts is very simple: just hold the pen at 45 degrees, press lightly on the text (you will hear a “click”), and take care to drag the pen with a fast and fluid movement. Scanning is done line by line. It recognizes fonts of different sizes, black text on a colored background, but does not recognize white text on a colored background.
The pen also allows you to read barcodes, but the pen head must be oriented in the opposite direction.
It also allows you to use it as a mini-scanner, but I don’t find this feature very useful as the scan height is very small.
Although I have read the opposite on other sites, I can confirm that the pen can read from the screen of a Kindle Paperwhite (7. generation) with screen protector.

Pros

Let’s see the benefits of a scanner pen with OCR recognition:
– the software allows you to send texts to external software (such as Microsoft Word, Google Chrome or any other) as in practice it was a keyboard.
– alternatively it is possible their software that allows you to translate the texts in a simpler way and keeps the memory of the scans.
– their software also allows you to easily read scanned text by voice, which I think is very useful in case of dyslexia, vision problems, or other problems that make reading difficult.
– you can also connect the pen to a smartphone, but I haven’t tried it yet. It could be very useful when traveling or on vacation, to translate restaurant menus, or texts of the attractions we visit.
– the software is free and does not require additional costs. The software after installation requires a free registration, to be made within 31 days.
– in the workplace I think it can save a lot of time. For example, it would eliminate the time of typing invoice numbers, reporting notes, reading codes, etc.
– makes it easier to learn a foreign language, such as English or Norwegian. However, the pen supports dozens of languages.
– reduces the time needed to transcribe texts, for example to report sources taken from paper books.

Cons

The downsides are there, as always it can be improved:
– the main one I would say is the need to use the USB dongle, and I wonder why the computer’s bluetooth cannot be used. It also occupies one of the few ports available on modern laptops. And the other is occupied by the wireless mouse, again with the USB dongle. Now the doors are finished! Also if you share the pen with someone – as in my case – you have to be moving the dongle from one computer to another.
– I was expecting newer technology, but the base seems to be at least 5-10 years old (say more 90s). I’d say that I have the impression that the recognition system is a bit dated. I suspect that other similar but more recently designed products may be much more advanced, flexible and precise.
– does not recognize underlined text. Also this I think is a big problem due to the technology now a bit obsolete, they should definitely do an update. Basically, if you have a book with underlined text, it basically doesn’t work at all.
– the need to press with the tip of the pen seems nonsense to me in 2021. I would have found a button on the side of the pen to press with the finger more practical, and as someone pointed out, it would allow not to ruin the books which, however, I have not yet found, but I think it depends on the type of paper).
– claimed battery life is very low, only a couple of hours. I also believe here it is due to the old battery technology used.
– obviously it does not recognize handwriting, but even this point, with a more advanced software, I think it would not have been impossible, just think of all the advances made in image recognition with AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning).
– the cost seems excessive to me, but I think it is more a political price for the service it offers rather than the actual cost of the hardware. I think 60 euros would have been more in line with real value.

Final impression

However, the pen is very useful! It saves a lot of time and energy. Avoid read-copy-translate micro-interruptions while studying. Highly recommended, too bad I discovered it after all this time!

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