Humans aren’t especially good at counting things. That’s why we invented math to make it easier and harder at the same time, then we invented computers to do math for us. Thousands of years of societal achievement have now reached their natural conclusion in the CountThings from Photos app. We’re all done here, everybody can climb back into the trees.
What’s that, Slack notification?
I still have to actually write this article?
Well fine, I guess. Geez.
CountThings is basically an app version of those famous scenes from Rain Man. And though it has some definite novelty potential, it’s actually designed for straight-laced industrial applications. The system uses pre-existing templates to analyze still images, counting up all of the similar items even when they’re arranged in nonsensical patterns that makes our pathetic meat-powered brains spin.
Logs of lumber stacked on a truck are a perfect example: the irregular circles are surprisingly difficult to count up by hand, since they don’t stack into neat rows and columns. But CountThings can do it in just a couple of seconds, using the template provided by the developer.
Because CountThings is an industrial tool, it’s not free. In fact it’s a long way from free: its in-app purchases for counting templates start at $20 and go up to $120. And that’s relatively inexpensive compared to the enterprise options, which start at $20 for 24 hours, with $2000 per year (for one device!) for the most complex video-based version of the tool.
The tool managed to get every key except the space bar, but missed six screws.
But if you just want to make your phone count stuff, you can download the app and try a few free scans for kicks. My results varied: while it’s excellent at getting anything with a regular, repeating shape, more complex outlines could fool it. It managed to count every key on my keyboard correctly (except the space key), but consistently missed a few screws spilled out onto my desk because some of them were bunched up or sitting on their heads.
So if you want to use this at your next construction site, you might have to try several different templates to find the one that works for whatever you’re counting. A little trial and error may be necessary to see if this thing is worth paying for.