Following my review of EyeNote from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, I was contacted Phillip Yang of Ipplex asking if I wanted to look at LookTel Money Reader. LookTel Money Reader is an iPhone application that performs the same functions as EyeNote, but I found to be even better.

According to the LookTel website, the app was developed by Ipplex under sponsorship from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and was awarded two research grants from the National Eye Institute (NEI) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA). The app was awarded first place at the 2010 CTIA E-Tech Awards for Mobile Applications in the Healthcare category.

I was given a code from Mr. Yang to download the app for free. I did tell let Mr. Yang know that it receiving the app for free would not influence my review. The code was redeemed, downloaded to my iPhone 4, and started testing.

To use Money Reader, you start the app and move the note to be identified in front of the camera—no special positioning or clicking required. First, I grabbed the $1 note that one of my dogs used as a chew toy. Before I was able to situate the iPhone over the note, it caught a piece of it and started to speak, “One Dollar. One Dollar. One Dollar.” While the note is identifiable, Money Reader will speak the denomination until you move the note out of view. I moved the note, turned it over with the same result. The note was turned upside down, folded, moved in sideways, and Money Reader identified the note when about one-sixth of the note covered the screen.

To say I was impressed with Money Reader’s performance would be an understatement. I had to try more. Using the money in my pocket, the app identified each note. It did not matter whether I used the front, back, turned the note upside down, sideways and even crumpled a one dollar note, all were identified.

I tried to think about ways to fool the app. Rather than trying to identify a $10 note, I tried folding it to make the “10” look like something else. No matter what I tried, Money Reader identified it as a $10 note. A small pile of notes were also identified. Money Reader was also able to identify the last three generations of small $20 notes and a $2 note with a stamp and postmark from 1976. No matter what I tried to do, I could not confuse Money Reader.

When I started to test Money Reader, it was during the day and the sun was out. The room I was in had the shades open. A few moments later a storm began rolling and and the room darkened. Money Reader was able to continue working after turning on the LED “flash” on the reverse of the iPhone 4. Obviously, this will be a problem for those using the iPhone 3Gs and iPod Touch that does not include the reverse LED.

I tried to identify multiple notes laying on a table or held in my hand. With similar notes, it was difficult to tell which note it was identifying. I used a set of $5 and $1 notes. While flipping the folded notes in my hand, Money Reader would identify the $1 I had just flipped and not the $5 note on top. It would be nice if the app could highlight or somehow indicate which note is being identified. When I made this comment to Mr. Yang, he said this is a planned future enhancement.

On a whim, I pointed Money Reader at my computer screen with an image of a $1 Silver Certificate. To my surprise, Money Reader identified the blue-sealed note properly!

Money Reader is fast, accurate, and easier to use than EyeNote. It does not need instructions as EyeNote does because it just works. I love apps that just work! I also cannot believe that the app is $1.99—it is worth every cent and more! I grade this app PR69+. As we numismatists know, proof coins are specially made coins with high quality dies and planchets. Money Reader gives the appearance of specially made software of a very high quality justifying the PROOF grade. Money Reader gets the plus rating because of its superior performance and providing the “that’s neat” response. The slight confusion in identifying multiple notes in front of the camera prevents me from giving it a perfect PR70.

Here are the screen images of Money Reader I saved from my iPhone:

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