Microsoft has released a free iPhone app that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to tell the blind what is around them. Named as Seeing AI, it’s billed as a “talking camera for the blind.” The app has already the hearts of many blind person while us are left awed by the simplicity and ease of use of the app.
What is the Seeing AI?
Seeing AI is a Microsoft research project that brings together the power of the cloud and AI to deliver an intelligent app, designed to help you navigate your day.
Languages supported – English
[Supported on iPhone 5C, 5S and later; best performance with iPhone 6S and later models.]
Watch the video experience of Seeing AI:
It describes for the following components:
- Short Text – Speaks text as soon as it appears in front of the camera.
- Documents – Provides audio guidance to capture a printed page, and recognizes the text, along with its original formatting.
- Products – Gives audio beeps to help locate barcodes and then scans them to identify products.
- Person – Recognizes friends and describes people around you, including their emotions.
- Scene – An experimental feature to describe the scene around you.
- Currency – Identify currency bills when paying with cash. (Coming soon)
How does Seeing AI work?
Fire up the free app and point your iPhone at anything, whether it’s a document, a menu card, a room or even a friend, and Seeing AI will tell you what it is with its voice. The app is now available on App Store in the U.S., Canada, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore.
If the phone is pointed at a park, the camera app can describe how the scene looks like. Similarly, it can tell the amount of your restaurant bill or narrate just about anything it is pointed at.
Microsoft describes Seeing AI as “a free app that narrates the world around you. Designed for the low vision community, this research project harnesses the power of AI to describe people, text and objects“. According to it, the app is designed to turn the “visual world into an audible experience“.
Microsoft hopes that this will make life a little bit easier for those with visual impairments. It was borne out of a project at Microsoft Research, and is one of several new initiatives driven by the company’s interest in exploring the possibilities that artificial intelligence can open up.
Read more on Seeing AI: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/seeing-ai/
While I’m fortunate enough to have passable vision and can’t fathom what it must be like to live with a serious impairment, I imagine that Seeing AI, and similar tools like it in the future, could certainly come in handy for assisting with basic navigation around spaces and parsing documents that aren’t optimized for easy reading. What’s exciting is that technologies like AI and machine learning are enabling the creation of such apps that provide functionality we can start to use in the real world right now.