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An oft-cited statistic about the ability to see is the World Health Organization’s claim that approximately 285 million people worldwide have impaired vision. Of that immense group, 39 million are totally blind and 246 million have varying degrees of significant impairment, from a variety of causes. In the past we’ve looked at surgical implants such the product from Retinal Implant AG and wearable aids such as Monash Vision Group’s Bionic Eye and Orcam Technologies’ Orcam. The implant and wearable technologies and products under development are exciting; however they are often quite invasive (in the case of implants) and in any case fairly expensive.

Aipoly, Inc.’s Aipoly is a smartphone app that visually impaired and blind can use to experience their environments more fully and for many, regain lost functionality and independence. The app is currently available only for iOS smartphones; an Android version is in beta. Aipoly uses the smartphone’s camera with a stored database of object descriptions to announce what it’s looking at via the phone’s speakers, identifying objects at a rate of three per second. In addition to the hundreds of stored objects and brand names, Aipoly also uses artificial intelligence to learn new objects when someone enters a description. Airpoly also recognizes colors which can be helpful when choosing or buying clothes or other products. Eventually the plan is for the app to be able to describe complex scenes with multiple objects.

Watch the video to see examples of how Aipoly can be used by blind persons to get a sense of both the empowerment and joy such an application can potentially bring. Aipoly is free, does not require surgery, and is very easy to use. While the app doesn’t restore sight, it can add appreciate and independence for the visually impaired.