As most folks are probably aware, iTunes 11 is now available for download. The overhauled interface has been getting some mixed reviews, as it seems to be railroading users into buying content, rather than offering an effective way for them to view and manage the content they already have. There’s no denying that the latest version of the Apple music player has some pretty nifty features, though.
Perhaps the niftiest new feature is the ability to “scan” the code off the back of your iTunes gift cards, by simply taking a webcam picture of the code itself. It’s much quicker than typing in the 16-digit code manually, and it seems to work pretty well. Sometimes it’s the little things that make software feel way cooler than it would otherwise.
“How has Apple pulled off this feat of techno-wizardry?” you might be asking. Well, one of the developers behind the new feature has posted a blog entry (which has since been deleted, but here’s a cached version) that outlines exactly how they built the gift card scanning capabilities in iTunes 11. In the words of the developer himself:
Now, after peeling or scratching the iTunes Gift Card, instead of typing the 16 digits one by one, you simply present the redeem code to the Facetime camera and boom! a very sophisticated set of image processing and computer vision algorithms extracts the 16-digit code from the iTunes Card and converts it into a string in few milliseconds. Core Animation, Accelerate, Core Graphics, GCD, AVFoundation and other frameworks were combined together to meet some very strict performance and usability requirements.
For us non-developers, a lot of the latter half of that doesn’t mean much, but it certainly sounds pretty fancy. We’re not sure why the blog post was removed, but one has to wonder if Apple thought it was giving away a bit too much of their trade secrets. Anyways, go check out the cached version of the blog post yourself, if you’re interested, and download iTunes 11 if you want to try this feature out for yourself.