Microsoft app that lets the blind ‘see’ goes global, and gets serious upgrades

For many people, the term artificial intelligence (AI) will still summon up images of sentient robots taking over the world, or of a jobless future for humans; but in reality AI is being used the world over to make our lives better. 

Microsoft’s Seeing AI is a perfect example of this. The smartphone app uses artificial intelligence to describe to the user what the rear-facing camera is pointing at, essentially doing real-time audio descriptions of the world, allowing those with limited vision to ‘see’ what their camera sees.

Microsoft originally trialed the app for Apple devices in the US, but after a successful run, it’s now extending it to 35 countries, including some in Europe. It’s still only available in the App Store, but we’re sure that an Android version is going to come out at some point.

A whole host of upgrades

As well as spreading to more countries, the app has had a serious boost in its capabilities. When it originally launched it was capable of recognizing people (and even their gender, expressions, and estimated age), objects, US currency, and read printed text.

Now, it can read handwriting, identify Canadian Dollars, British Pounds and Euros, and can even tell you what color your clothes are to help you coordinate your outfit of a morning. 

Musical light detector is a cool new feature that plays tones that relate to light, allowing the user to identify if a light bulb is lit before they touch it, saving them from burnt fingers, and making the problem of ‘have I left the lights on?’ much easier to solve.

Users will now also be able to make functional changes to how the app works, including the ability to choose from different voices, and adjust the speed at which they speak. 

It’s been a little over a year since this app was first unveiled, but it’s still fantastic to see how developments in technology are changing the world for the better. Long may it continue. 

Via Engadget

Andrew London

Andrew London is a writer at Velocity Partners. Prior to Velocity Partners, he was a staff writer at Future plc.