Profound visual impairment in our increasingly visual world disenfranchises blind or partially sighted people. According to a statistic from the U.K.’s Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), sight loss costs the country nearly $6 billion annually due to lower employment rates and medical care for which patients cannot pay. Of the more than two million plus people in the U.K. with sight loss, nearly half feel “moderately” or “completely” cut off from society. We’ve written about Facebook’s work with alternate automatic text to help the blind “see” images, the Aipoly smartphone app that recognizes and calls out the names of objects, various wearable devices for the visually impaired, and more. Microsoft Corp. recently released its Seeing AI app in the U.K. Seeing AI is a free program to help the blind and partially sighted understand the visual content they cannot see adequately on their own .
Seeing AI uses artificial intelligence to recognize and describe objects, people, and text. The app uses the camera in a smartphone or tablet. Part of a current Microsoft research project, the Seeing AI app helps visually impaired people attain greater independence in completing everyday tasks. Seeing AI identifies and describes text, documents, products (via barcode), people (from previously captured contact list images), scenes, and images from other apps. For example, the user can tap “Share” and “Recognize with Seeing AI” to describe images from social media, email, and photos.
Previously released in the U.S., Canada, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Singapore early in 2017, Seeing AI is now available in iOS format in the U.K., Ireland, and Australia.