Google launches Stack, an app that digitizes personal docs and extracts key information

Google’s in-house incubator, Area 120, is today releasing its latest project called Stack, an app that will help you digitize your documents, receipts and other papers you have lying around the house, and then automatically save them to Google Drive. The app will also helpfully suggest a name for your scans and the right category — or “stack,” as it’s called.

At launch, Stack can handle scanning a range of differently-sized documents — like bills, shopping receipts, or even IDs — which are then turned into PDFs and organized, while important information from within the file is detailed using A.I. technology.

The idea for Stack comes from Christopher Pedregal, who previously co-founded the edtech startup Socratic which was acquired by Google back in 2018. 

Pedregal notes that, at Socratic, they had taken advantage of Google’s computer vision and language understanding technologies to make learning easier for high school students. While at Google, he began to think about how those same technologies could be put to work for better organizing documents. To experiment with the idea, he teamed up with Matthew Cowan. The two first worked together on DocAI, a team in Google Cloud that was developing A.I. technology that could analyze billions of documents.

They realized that they could also apply DocAI’s enterprise technology to users’ personal documents, which led to the creation of Stack.

With the Stack app, initially available for Android, users can take a photo of a document and the app will automatically name it and “stack” it into the correct category — like Bills, Banking, House, IDs, Immigration, Insurance, Legal, Medical, Pet, Receipts, Tax, Travel, Vehicles, and Work.

Users can add multiple pages when scanning a document, and Stack will OCR all the pages in a document, so that the full text of the document is searchable. Users can also star their most important scans for quicker access.

While the ability to quickly digitize documents by photographing them isn’t new — Microsoft has offered Office Lens for years, for example —  Stack will also be able to identify key information from within the documents, like the “due date” on a bill, the “total amount due” or “account number.” It can then pull that info out to make it easier to find later on.

The app additionally allows users to search through the full text of the documents, not just the title, to find information they need. To keep the items protected, Stack’s documents can be secured by either your fingerprint or face scan, similar to how Google Drive works today. And Drive users can have all their scans automatically synced over to Google Drive.

Google says the app is currently available on Android, as a free download with no in-app purchases. Based on user feedback, Google will decide whether to bring Stacks to more platforms, like iOS.

 

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