Seeing AI app available for vision impaired Australians

Posted 6 years ago by Andrew Lodiong

A new mobile app created for the vision impaired community can now be accessed in Australia that will make it easier to do things like move around the house and open an SMS.

Microsoft’s ‘Seeing AI’ is designed to help people with visual impairments use artificial intelligence to recognise objects, people and text via a phone or tablet’s camera.

In a product review report, Vision Australia’s Access Technology Lead David Woodbridge expresses his delight about the app’s convenience.

“There are other apps out there that can provide facial recognition, scan barcodes or provide text to speech, but this is the first one that combines them in one,” he says.

Seeing AI was launched in Australia this month and is available for free download across Apple’s iOS devices.

Mr Woodbridge believes the app has good overall functionality and says features like the barcode reader and short text reading were well developed.

“With the short text reader, you just open it up and it starts to read what you’re looking at straight away,” he says.

“The barcode reader also beeps when it starts to detect the barcode so you know you’re getting close and then just reads it.”

“It may not sound like much, but I don’t know how many times I’ve waved other barcode reader apps over something without knowing if I’ve found the barcode or not.”

Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie says the company’s past work in artificial intelligence was key in laying the foundation in developing such inclusive technology.

“We’ve providing computers with the intelligent capabilities to see, hear, talk and understand natural ways of communication,” she says.

“This has profound implications for enterprise technology customers but critically also allows us to develop tools that promote inclusivity and allow more people to benefit from digital innovation.”

Despite being cost-free, Mr Woodbridge would like to see other improvements made to Seeing AI’s other features such as the scene recognition, which is still in it’s infancy.

“The scene recognition isn’t something I’d be relying on too much,” he says. “It’s a good idea, but it still seems to struggle to identify a lot of things.”

The expert want’s Seeing AI to be released on the Android platform and calls for other industry leaders to also continue producing these types of assistive technology in the future.