US software vendor Ipplex has launched an iPhone application that helps blind and visually impaired Americans identify bank notes.
Available through Apple's App Store for $1.99, the LookTel Money Reader uses the iPhone camera to identify $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills before 'speaking' the value out loud.
The vendor says its app uses patented and proprietary object recognition technology to recognise any bill denomination in real time without the need to hold the camera still or take a photo.
American bank notes are all the same size, posing a problem for the visually impaired. In 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit upheld a district court opinion finding that "the Treasury Department's failure to design and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable to the visually impaired violates section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act". However, no changes to the currency have yet been made.
LookTel developed its technology under sponsorship from the National Institutes of Health and was awarded two research grants from the National Eye Institute and the National Institute of Aging.
Gary Kelly, executive director of Blind Wisdom and Ipplex advisor, says: "The LookTel Money Reader is fantastic because it reads money quickly at any location - even if there is no Internet connection available. One can use it and sort money as quickly as a sighted person can, and do this with total independence."