MANI app: Could be useful for visually-impaired persons if flaws are fixed

The Reserve Bank of India’s MANI (Mobile Aided Note Identifier) app is for visually-impaired persons to identify bank notes. And it is off to a poor start. The complaints on the Google Play Store are stacking up with no signs of improvement so far.

First, it suffers from some basic flaws. The problem starts with the name. Visually-impaired persons are already struggling to adapt to Android’s perilous talkback feature in smartphones, which announces everything on the screen and helps them perform basic functions. A lot of the actions require people to give voice commands through Google Assistant. And the voice assistant just does not recognise an app spelled MANI (instead of money), yet. So, one has to have the MANI app widget on the home screen to find it with touch.

The app recognises new currency notes accurately when placed in front of the phone’s camera and speaks the denomination out loud, but it struggles with the old notes. It also does not identify coins, nor can it differentiate between genuine and counterfeit currency. The accuracy of identifying the right denomination is low at night, even with the torch on.

MANI can prove to be an important app if the makers quickly fix these foundational flaws. For now, it feels counter-intuitive and it might not be the best idea for visually-challenged persons to use this app without assistance. The app in its current form is more like a beta version that should not have been released in a rush.

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