Computers, the internet, and smartphones have changed the way each of us live our lives. For people who are blind or have low vision these changes have been a double-edged sword. The information and communication that is central to the rise of this technology benefits people regardless of their physical abilities. They are, however, largely visual media.
The first major step in addressing the need for sight in the digital world is the screen reader. Modern operating systems and mobile devices come equipped with at least one screen reader, opening the device and the reservoir of online information to the blind. Information is generally more accessible than ever in the digital medium. The next major step is enhancing the ability to move functionally through the everyday physical world.
Microsoft designed Seeing AI as a free app for iOS that takes significant steps towards assisted liberation. Seeing AI uses the iPhone camera to constantly process and describe what comes into view. The four main categories the user can choose from are Text (everyday text on street signs, buildings, etc.), Document (text on a document), Product (barcodes), and Person (facial recognition). These different settings let a user navigate using the written language of their surroundings, read and process written documents, scan products in stores for information, and take meaningful pictures throughout the process.
The ‘People’ processing features of Seeing AI also includes facial recognition. If you have friends or coworkers you’re with regularly, you can put 3 photos of them into the app and attach a name to those images. Then when the app sees that face again while in use it will include the person’s name when describing the image.
Seeing AI is free to download, further increasing the likelihood that people will use it. So if you think this app could help you or if you are curious about this technology and want to know how effective it is, get the app and try it. Test it in different scenarios and see how well it does. Whether or not Seeing AI meets your expectations, technology like this app is well on its way to becoming commonplace. With any luck, that will lead to fewer obstacles and inhibitions for people living in the modern world with vision problems.