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Gone are the days when the fashionable gift was a book in which one could dry and press wine labels to help remember what they liked and what would be best as a cheapo gift. Now, with digital this and digital that, APPS are all the rage. Our cyber lives will stop revolving around a precious hard drive and move into the cloud where applications and online communities greet us with smiling faces and the latest font. And some of them, in fact, are here to replace that wine label book we either cherished or were too lazy to start up in the first place. The app in question, Vivino. The new FoodNewsie toy for such things and more, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2.
There is no wasting time! Vivino's right to it bossing you around the app and quickly telling you how to talk to it in mildly friendly faux charcuterie chalkboard font layout ruined only by a dummy-proof mod OK button.
This isn’t about the Samsung tech toy, but lately, some foodie friends have been pushing in that direction. With technology prevailing in every aspect of our lives, the making and taking of food is far from being out of technology’s reach. If you don’t know, tablets and phones have empty space you fill by downloading apps – applications – that partially exist on the device but lure you to take part in some online activity. Vivino boasts a strong community of users reaching the millions. Once you download and start the app, you’re immediately forced to create an identity and join that community. We chose FoodNewsie for the first and last name. Look us up!
Once your identity is created, it’s right to work. Your job is simple: Aim the wine label in a spot, take a picture of it and wait for the business end of Vivino to report back.
After some effort with the tablet's camera position, a good snap shot of the first label immediately yields stats and a vertical run of other goodies submitted by experts, members and, perhaps, dictionaries but the rankings are wonderfully clear and thorough for the Vivino user with little time.
One such foodie talking tech friend of ours was kind enough to gift this Katherine Goldschmidt bottle. There was little doubt it would be the first test subject. The results came back stunningly fast. As it happens, many people think this is a bottle of wine you should enjoy.
That was a little too easy. The results were appreciated and user reviews, dictionary-like explanations of Cabernet Sauvignon and global ranks came in a jiffy. What powers Vivino is unclear but for an app to read text and identify label shapes and artwork like facial recognition software does is an awfully good use of the technology. We’re not going to stop it, so let’s embrace that kind of progress and make it work for us.
The Samsung Tab S2 requires a wireless internet connection. As a computer guy, this author is daunted with just how fast Vivino managed to produce results. There’s a lot of potential bottle necks in this system between picture quality, connection speeds, server requests (other users submitting pictures at the same time) and the software ID process which can lag if the database is excessive; Vivino must take advantage of some categorization method because the results were frighteningly fast; especially when you think this is the same stuff that reads license plates and faces at airports.
The first snap of Katherine Goldschmidt was intentionally careful. The next was a pale label shot haphazardly which a strain on text reading software that expects most letters to run up-and-down and left-right cleanly. The app thought for a moment and came back a quick shooting guide and an alternate method for soaking up wine labels, the Wine List.
So the experiment was to take a hasty picture. Text reading software would be thrown for a loop by text that wasn’t adequately horizontal and in the right half of the screenshot above, the user is reminded how to take a good picture that Vivino can apply its software to. Taking a screenshot, by the way, on the Samsung, is as easy as swiping the edge of your hand across the display like you’re trying to clean something off; very clever as gestures go.
Virtually unrecognizable, the results were all wrong but for the maker, Trapiche, which is silver on gray AND diagonal. Vivino's recognition software can be forgiven for stumbling on this one but the authority with which it returned a wrong result (year, grape and price) might cause some problems at the register. Vivino let's you correct everything as an edit.
Finally, the time came to photograph the “hardest” label in the text group of four bottles. It’s plagued with all kinds of fancy label trouble. Namely, silver on gray writing that’s also perfectly diagonal and rather plain. So text reading would be mostly out of the question; Vivino would have to rely on something more akin to facial recognition to identify the shapes of the letters and label. That’s a very important variation; letters are letters, but shapes can get awfully similar for a computer even in the clearest image. So it was, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon came back as a 2005 Chardonnay by the same maker.
It’s tough to say if that’s an easy mistake for a computer to make but the wrong information came back so quickly that it seemed authoritative in its timing. The implications for that blunder in a sci-fi story about facial recognition and criminal activity are huge but just as with traffic cameras and text readers, human oversight saves the day. Vivino not only makes it easy to snap a shot of the next bottle with a persistent camera icon in the lower-right, but also allows for easy editing of the software’s suggestion. Wrong year? Wrong wine? Type in the correction.
FoodNewsie may remain pretty uninvolved in the larger community of which we’re now a part, but this app will find its way into group discussions and provide some ooo’s and ah’s and we’ll certainly shoot more with it for no reason other than to make up for that wine label book that never took off! Vivino’s great. The only gripe is that pressing the Samsung Tablet’s “BACK” button was the only way to escape the reporting and return to some sort of “homepage” or “my account” home or “gallery” to see what had been done; once for each bottle. There was no clear way to bounce out and get to a central spot for the profile we’d just made. It’s a small inconvenience.
Vivino IS another reason to stop interacting with people around you. Most of the drawbacks found were software-based and therefore can easily disappear by the time you have a crack at the Vivino app.
Vivino, along with texting, food photography, web surfing and praying is another reason to keep your head down when you’re out, but aside from scoring some nice record-keeping for your labels, it might not have enough to offer the light drinker with a small history and few Vivino suggestions. You’ll be forced to engage the people around you; but, of course, the wine will help.
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