Microsoft today is rolling out a new feature for Windows Phone users: Optical character recognition (OCR) that automatically translates pictures of text into actual text when uploaded from the phone to the company’s SkyDrive cloud storage service.

The photo above, from Microsoft, shows the technology working on a description of a piece of art. The Bing-powered feature is similar to technology available via Evernote and Google Drive, among others. Microsoft says in a blog post that it’s “the first of several features that will make your SkyDrive photos smarter.”

Microsoft says the OCR technology for Windows Phone users is rolling out over the next 24 hours. You’ll need to have the auto-upload feature activated for photos on your Windows Phone to make it work.

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  • SilverSee

    Todd, if I read Microsoft’s blog post correctly, this has nothing to do with Windows Phone, or any mobile app. Rather, it is a (Bing-powered) feature of SkyDrive itself, and thus should be available (as a service) for use with any photos you have uploaded to the service from any device (mobile or otherwise).

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      Thanks for pointing this out. Here’s what Microsoft says,”The feature is available via the camera roll only. That said, it’s accessible through Windows Phone and the Windows 8.1 preview. Any device that adds the camera roll will also automatically “add”/include OCR.”

      So I believe you’re right that you could, for example, take advantage of this via the SkyDrive app for iPhone.

      What’s unclear to me is whether this would also work by manually adding a picture to the camera roll through a browser. Or does the OCR do its thing during the auto-upload process? I’ve asked for clarification on that.

      OCR isn’t activated in my account yet but I’ll try this stuff out when it is.

      • SilverSee

        Okay, I see. It seems then that while the feature is cloud-based, the user interface for it will be exposed via the camera roll on Windows-based phones and tablets. Thanks for clarifying.

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