We take a lot for granted every single day. Right now, I’m watching the end of Cast Away where Tom Hanks realises he’s always taken fire for granted. Even watching a movie is something we often take for granted too. Imagine, or just one moment, that you couldn’t see. Microsoft has launched Seeing AI, an app that does the opposite of this scenario for the visually impaired.

What is Seeing AI?

Combining all the great buzz terms of today, Seeing AI uses computer vision, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, all that good stuff. The app narrates the world around you through your smartphone, scanning everything with the onboard camera. The app works in a number of situations. It can:

  • recognise people you teach it
  • recognise strangers, guessing age and emotion
  • scan documents
  • read signage

Why is Seeing AI important?

For the average smartphone user, Seeing AI has a fleeting novelty to it. However, should you be visually impaired or blind, the app could be life changing. Some functionality works best in the States, where the app can distinguish between currency. The benefit here is that for the visually impaired, there is no way to differentiate between paper Dollars.

Does it work?

I first spotted the app on Bill Nye’s Netflix series where it was introduced by Microsoft’s Seeing AI Tech Lead, Saqib Shaikh. I thought it was amazing, but there’s always a scepticism with non-live demos. It’s not perfect right now, but the app is effectively a newborn baby, learning with every scene that’s scanned. I took to the streets of Dublin to test it out:

Our technological standards today are really high, so it’s okay to think Seeing AI has a way to go before being perfect. If you’re visually impaired or blind, hearing about an app that can describe the world to you in a somewhat reliable manner has got to be exciting right? Let us know in the comments what you think of the app, or if you’re visually impaired and excited check this out.

Download Seeing AI

Currently, the app is only available in the US Store on iOS. You can change your store without too much drama, so no problems there. We don’t have a date for Android yet, but hopefully, it’s only a matter of time.

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