Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

I attended the sort of progressive high school that allowed students to create their own classes. I decided to study the practical applications of plants, specifically their uses in food, textiles and medicine.

Basically, I cooked, dyed wool and made diluted poisons. Typical high school stuff.

I learned a lot about my local plants during that semester. What I’m not always great at is identifying new plants. That’s why I downloaded a plant identifier app. I won’t suggest the one I use because it’s just ok, full of tech walls designed to shunt you away from free options and toward a purchase, but I’ve charted a path around those barriers and can get the information I want.

That said, I’ve learned that iOS 15 users* already have a free alternative.

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The feature is called Visual Look Up and once you know it’s there, it’s easy to use. It works for plants but also other subjects like landmarks, art and animals.

Today I learned you can identify plants and flowers using just your iPhone camera

Just open up a photo or screenshot in the Photos app and look for the blue “i” icon underneath. If it has a little sparkly ring around it, then iOS has found something in the photo it can identify using machine learning. Tap the icon, then click “Look Up” and it’ll try and dredge up some useful information.

Is it perfect? Not in my (admittedly limited) experience, but it is surprisingly good. My father-in-law sent me a picture of a mystery flower that had appeared (quite mysteriously!) next to his pond. Despite living in the area for decades he had never seen the plant before. Did I know what it was?

I did, in fact, have a pretty good guess. It looked an awful lot like a native plant Mr Man and I bought when we first moved into the house, the Blue Flag Iris. I ran the image through my app to be sure, and it helpfully appended “Northern” to the name. Points for me, but confirmation is always nice.

After discovering Visual Look Up I tested it on the same photo. It got me to “Iris” but without additional specifics. (To be fair, when I took a quick snapshot of the clearer image below and ran Look Up, it identified the plant as a Blue Flag Iris. Points for it.)

So next time you discover something mysterious that you don’t mind sharing with the tech giant in your pocket, try out this feature.

For a free option covering multiple life and other forms?** Recommended.

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* Those in the US, Australia, Canada, UK, Singapore, Indonesia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Mexico, for now. Not an iPhone user? I haven’t tried it, but Google Lens has similar functionality and works for both iOS and Android.

** But does it work on aliens?

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Ah, that’s better! I’ve just finished switching over to a new computer, and it’s bigger better faster and all kinds of more awesome than the six-year old tower I had been using. This is it, still wrapped in the thoughtfully designed protective blankie covering in which it was delivered. Under all the styrofoam and cardboard, of course.


I find there are always transition issues with a new computer, even when that computer is a Mac. Take, for example, the soul-crushing realization that a favorite app, DockStar from Ecamm, is not compatible with the new Mavericks OS. Granted, Apple’s Mail has a tiny bit of DockStar’s functionality built in, but I do mean tiny. Ecamm, I hope you find a buyer for the program soon. Alternatively, Apple needs to incorporate that functionality into its system, stat!

The new machine is so fast. Henceforth, all writing will take place at the speed of light. Or 99.9% of same (see, Neil deGrasse Tyson, I was listening to you in episode 1.04 of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, and not just because it included voice acting by SirPatStew;).

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