Artificial Intelligence Is Helping Blind People To ‘See’

Microsoft has launched a new app that describes everything around you, in real time.


India is home to a third of the world’s blind population. The country has about 12 million individuals with visual impairment against the international total of 39 million, according to a report released by the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB).


The Seeing AI program, published by Microsoft, is poised to be a life-changing app for vision-impaired people. It is a smartphone-based narrator which can be used everywhere: people can tip their smartphone in the pantry to find the vegemite or narrate a child’s homework questions.

Though, Dave Heiner, from Microsoft, told Seeing AI began as a hack at a popular hackathon, in which a bunch of people chose to build an app that combined a smartphone and AI vision technology.


“They realized they could hack on those things together and finally try to provide eyesight to the visually impaired.


“It does a whole set of AI capacities around facial recognition. You can point it at an item, and it’ll read the bar code and tell you what the item is, you can point it in a sign in a hallway or airport, and it will read the text back instantly.” 


“It’s only an incredibly magical application for the visually impaired community and anyone who would like to observe the advantages of AI.”


After, Kenny Johar Singh initially expected to be a doctor until a degenerative retinal condition changed his career plans. However, a lack of vision was not likely to restrict his aspirations.

“I took a pivot into computers since they were the mechanisms I had been using to get information.

Singh uses a range of technologies allowing him equal access to information as to his fully sighted coworkers. As an early adopter of Seeing AI, Singh uses the app to give him access to the physical universe.

“I use it a lot to identify items’ products and to read documents if I get them in a bodily printed format. And I’m experimenting with the private identification capacity.”


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Cristian Sainz uses Seeing AI at home to scan the bar code of a jar of peaches from his fridge. Photo by Microsoft.

Therefore, Viewing AI can read documents and create a sense of structural elements like paragraphs, headings, and lists so that people can quickly browse a report using a voiceover. Also, it can recognize images in other programs.

Microsoft’s work in AI means it now has solutions that can recognize speech having an error rate of just 5.9% and graphics with an error rate of only 3.5 percent. This implies computers may comprehend words in a conversation and provide real-time translation.

Also, ANU legislation lecturer Cameron Roles is excited about the new apps to assist vision-impaired people lead productive, full lives.

Roles have been blind since birth; among a set of triplets born three weeks early, the oxygen which saved his life caused his blindness. He explained assistive technology would enable people to access valuable content more readily while expanding the workforce to include a broader base of gifted people.

“Now is, in my opinion, the fascinating time in human history to be blind,” Roles said.


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