Use Lookout To Explore Your Surroundings

Before we dive into all of the features of this amazing app, I would like to let you know that currently, this is an Android only app. Also, much of the information I’m showing here has been pulled from Google’s help pages on accessibility. With that out of the way, let’s begin!


When I started using this app, I thought at first that this was just another object recognition and text scanning app. I was very surprised to discover that this app instantly began describing what was around me without me needing to take a picture first. When you first open the app, you’re in a kind of exploration mode that allows you to move your Android phone around, and either read text as the camera sees it, or describe what it sees, such as “computer monitor”. Lookout also has modes for shopping and reading—more about this later.

Here is an audio described video showing the Lookout app. Note that this video is about a year and a half old, so there have been many updates and improvements to the app since its initial release.

I’ll be back for the conclusion, and now, here’s Google!


Note: Lookout is currently available in English in the United States for supported devices (Google Pixel; Samsung S6, S7, S8, S9, S10; LG G7, G8) running Android 5 and above. Learn how to check your Android version.

Lookout is an Android app that uses computer vision to assist people who are blind or have low vision in gaining information about their surroundings.

Lookout uses the camera and sensors on your device to recognize objects and text, and then gives you spoken feedback, earcons, and other signals to inform you about what it sees. Lookout doesn’t speak everything in your view, but looks for important things that you might care about.

Lookout is designed for extended use (1–2 hours or more). With the camera facing outward, the device can hang from a lanyard around your neck, sit in a shirt pocket, or be held in your hand.

Step 1: Install and turn on Lookout

  1. Download Lookout on Google Play.
  2. Start Lookout using one of these options:
    • Say “Ok Google, start Lookout.”
    • Tap Lookout  .

Step 2: Start using Lookout

Lookout automatically starts when you open the app. You’ll hear a start-up tone indicating that Lookout is active.

Use Lookout modes

Lookout has 4 modes that you can use while you’re doing different activities:

  • Explore: For daily tasks, chores, and new places. By default, Lookout starts in the Explore mode.
  • Shopping: For barcodes and currency.
  • Quick read: For sorting mail, reading signs and labels.
  • Scene description: Hear an instant description of a single image.

To choose the Lookout mode that matches your current activity, go to the Select Mode tab. To go to the Select Mode tab from the Camera tab, swipe left. (If TalkBack is on, 2-finger swipe.)

Place your camera facing out

When you start using Lookout, find a comfortable place to put your device. The back of the device should point away from you, so the camera faces outward.

Remember that you don’t need to frame objects with your camera: Lookout uses a continuous vision system as your device hangs around your neck or sits in your pocket. From whatever position you choose, Lookout watches for objects and automatically speaks them to you.

Pause and resume Lookout

If you’re wearing your device:

  • Pause Lookout by holding your hand flat against the camera on the back of your device for 2 seconds until you hear the pause tone.
  • Resume Lookout by knocking twice on the back of your device, near the top. If you don’t get a response, check that Pause & resume gestures is on, then try knocking harder. (Learn how to turn on Pause & resume gestures under “Change settings” below.)

If you’re holding your device and using on-screen controls:

  • To pause or resume Lookout, tap Stop   . (If TalkBack is on, double-tap.) You’ll hear the pause tone when Lookout is paused.

Try Lookout features

After you start using Lookout, try the options below to find what works best for your current activity.

Use the fingerprint sensor

Fingerprint sensor controls are convenient while you’re using Lookout, since the fingerprint sensor is facing outward along with the camera.

To turn on fingerprint controls for Lookout, turn on the Lookout accessibility service:

  1. Open your device’s Settings app .
  2. Select Accessibility, then Lookout.
  3. Turn on Lookout, and accept the permissions.

The fingerprint sensor works for the following controls:

  • Mode selection: Swipe the fingerprint sensor to the left from the Camera view to scroll through Lookout modes. To select a mode, knock twice on your device.
  • View recent items: Swipe the fingerprint sensor to the right from the Camera view to scroll through recent results. To hear details, swipe up on the sensor.

Use a Bluetooth controller

You can set up a wireless controller (such as a game controller) to control Lookout. This option can be useful if you’re wearing your Android device.

To configure Bluetooth:

  1. Open your device’s Settings app .
  2. Select Accessibility, then Lookout.
  3. Select Settings, then Bluetooth keys.
  4. Assign buttons on the Bluetooth controller to different Lookout functions.

Change the detail level

You can change the detail level in Lookout if you’d like to hear more or less information about each item.

To change the detail level while you’re using Lookout:

  1. In the Camera tab, select Change detail level.
  2. Choose Low, Medium, or High (default).

Note: At the low detail level, Lookout might only read a few words of text. To get the rest of the text, go to the Recents tab.

Change settings

Lookout has features that make it easy to use for long periods of time. These features let you wear your device on a lanyard or in a shirt pocket and use Lookout without interacting with the screen.

By default, the following features are on when you start using Lookout:

  • Pause & resume gestures: Knock twice on the back of your device to start Lookout, and cover the camera with your hand to pause Lookout.
  • Auto-disable screen: Automatically dims the screen and disables touch when the device is worn (for example, in a shirt pocket) and the proximity sensor is covered.

To change your settings:

  1. Open your device’s Settings app .
  2. Select Accessibility, then Lookout.
  3. Select Settings.
  4. Turn on or turn off Pause & resume gestures or Auto-disable screen.

Review recent results

On the Recents tab, you can review a history of items that Lookout has detected.

To review your results:

  1. From the Camera tab, swipe left to right. (If TalkBack is on, 2-finger swipe.)
  2. Scroll through your results one at a time.
  3. Select an item to get details.




As I said before, I’ve had a wonderful experience using this app. I find it very intuitive, one example of this being the controls to start and stop description. I am eager to try updates to this app. I am also very interested to discover how you all out there are using Lookout.


2 thoughts on “Use Lookout To Explore Your Surroundings”

  1. Hi Doug. Thanks for writing in. First of all please know that all of the devices on the android operating system or not supported yet. Google is slowly releasing look out on other android devices. It’s also possible that your camera may not be good enough to work with this device. I don’t believe that the Samsung six is on the approved list of devices. You can check the app listing to be sure though. That should be updated from time to time.

  2. Hello, Lookout sounds very useful, I have a Samsung Galaxy S6 running Android 7, I thought it would be compatible but it says I do not have any compatible devices to install Lookout on. Any suggestions why this might be the case? I don’t have a data plan on the phone just connected via Wifi to the Internet.

What's in your head about what you just read?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.