Microsoft has created Seeing AI – an intelligent app which thanks to the power of the cloud and AI working together is able to narrate the surrounding world to visually impaired people.
The scale of the impact Artificial Intelligence will have on the global labor force in the case of its mass implementation is the main topic when this technology is discussed. Nevertheless, the role AI plays in improving the quality of life of individuals is quite important and has a very positive impact on society.
Advanced AI technology used in automated vehicles can be adapted to applications which aim to help visually impaired people to navigate much better in their environment. Thanks to its ability to accurately sense the surroundings and to make quick decisions, AI can improve the life of people with vision loss by enabling them to participate more actively in the society.
Imagine the scale of the impact this technology could have considering that according to the World Health Organisation, there are 285 million people in the world who are visually impaired. 39 million of them are blind and the rest 246 million have vision loss.
Microsoft’s intelligent camera app is very easy to use – you just need to point the phone’s camera at the object or the person you want to see and then you hear information about them. By recognizing friends, their facial expressions and emotions, Seeing AI enables visually impaired people to receive information about the body language of the people in front of them, which results in a more efficient communication.
The app can be also used to read documents and to identify products by scanning the barcode. Furthermore, it can describe the environment which is surrounding the user to help them navigate better in the space. Identifying currency in the case of cash payment is a feature that Microsoft is still working on. The company defines the mission of the app as:
“Turning the visual world into an audible experience.”
In order to recognize the world around it, the app uses neural networks which learn how to execute a task based on an existing example. This same technology powers self-driving cars and drones. Since the basic functions of Seeing AI are carried on the device, they can be accessed more quickly and even when the Internet connection is not very good. Only experimental features such as describing the surroundings require a connection to the cloud.
The app directs the user to move the camera to the left or to the right to get the person or the object in shot. According to the tech lead on Seeing AI Saqib Shaikh, Seeing AI stands out because of the neural networks’ speed. Microsoft wanted the face recognition on a device to happen as fast as possible and they succeeded. Within milliseconds, the result is ready and the user can hear it.
“It’s all about the speed and we try to do as much as we can on the device.”, Shaikh said.
Currently the app is available in US, Canada, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore only for iOS devices.
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