While the number of apps for folks with low vision that use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the ubiquitous “cloud” continues to climb, Microsoft’s latest entry, Seeing AI may be a game changer.
According to Business Insider magazine, Microsoft first showed off the prototype over a year ago, but released the official version this week.
Microsoft describes the new app: “Seeing AI…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.” The Seeing AI software currently has five functions, called “channels.” Two channels deal exclusively with the recognition of text (one for signs and short phrases, and one that reads whole pages of text). One of the channels can detect and decipher bar codes. Another channel will soon be added that will be a currency reader.
The last two Seeing AI “channels” are perhaps the most exciting. One channel, “Person” is able to detect the presence of a group of people, or individual persons by gender and also states the expression on their face. With some training and input from the user, the app has the capacity to facially recognize people and name them specifically, even if they are in a group.
The other exciting Seeing AI channel, “Scene” is still in beta but can identify other scenes and give its best guess as to what is happening. A test made by the author while sitting in the living room resulted in the app stating “man sitting on living room sofa.”
Designed for the iPhone, the Seeing AI app can be used with iPads or iPods but will need an active WiFi signal. The app is currently only available for iOS devices (no word on an Android version). Ironically, the announcement of the new app comes soon after Microsoft announced the end of the Windows Phone OS.
Look for significant improvements in the future. Microsoft is eager for feedback from users who can help refine the AI and accuracy of the application.