Expanding your app-titude

A monthly look at apps and websites that can make the CPA’s job and life better.
By Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA

Once again, I've passed on writing about Pokémon Go, but I found a few useful examples of "photo recognition." These (and Pokémon Go) are early examples of what we might someday see in a category broadly, albeit oftentimes incorrectly, categorized as "augmented reality." Augmented reality generally refers to a process of identifying physical objects (i.e., reality) and presenting additional (i.e., augmented) information to the viewer. While the examples presented here are certainly not perfect, I think a bit of imagination will help you understand why the genre is important.

Case in point: Very early in my career I was sent to a client site to perform a floor plan inventory. The client was a farm implement dealer, and I was to find and identify dozens of pieces of equipment. Now, even though I'm a South Dakota kid, I grew up urban, not rural, and all farm equipment was big and, around here at least, very green. The difference between a windrower, an air drill, and a combine was a mystery to me.

Because I was also very green, I allowed the client to walk me around the yard and identify the random pieces of equipment I was to find. Obviously, this was a flawed audit procedure! Later, after a short, one-way conversation with my manager, I filed the experience away under "do not repeat." A specialized augmented-reality app would have been a godsend. An ideal one has yet to be developed, but a handful of precursor apps are detailed below to give an idea of what might be coming.


CamFind is designed to recognize virtually any object and present facts and purchase options about it. It's an interesting app that holds promise for a quickly developing augmented-reality world. The CamFind platform features an application program interface and encourages other app developers to contribute to and draw from its ever-growing photo database. Its recognition tool tries hard but fails often. It correctly identified a comb and a stapler, was close on a bottle of generic cold tablets, and failed miserably on a paper clip. The paper clip was photographed on my gray desktop, which CamFind identified as a "grey surface" and then concluded the photo must be of a Microsoft Surface. CamFind is not perfect, but it's free and instructive of the good things to come in the image recognition world.

  • Website: camfindapp.com
  • Cost: Free
  • Operating systems: iOS, Android, Google Glass


My Garden Answers is a handy single-purpose app designed to identify specific plants. Period. It accomplishes that task quite well. Load the app, open the camera, and snap a picture of the plant in question, and My Garden Answers queries its impressive database to identify the plant and provide information about it. Vivino serves up wine information in a similar fashion, working off a photo to deliver ratings and prices.

  • Website: gardenanswers.com
  • Cost: App, free; Ask an Expert questions, $1.99 each
  • Operating systems: iOS, Android
  • Website: vivino.com
  • Cost: Basic, free; Premium, $4.99 per month
  • Operating systems: iOS, Android

Greg LaFollette (greg.lafollette@hq.cpa.com) is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA.


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