Microsoft, Google Have Both Updated Their Mobile Apps for the Blind

Posted on March 12, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, Mobile with 5 Comments

Microsoft and Google have both issued updates to their mobile apps that help those who are blind or have low vision to navigate the world around them.

Microsoft’s app, called Seeing AI, is available only on iOS and was first released back in 2017 but it was updated today with new capabilities. These include the ability to explore photos by touch, native iPad support, and the ability to customize which channels are shown in the app.

“Seeing AI helps users read printed text in books, restaurant menus, street signs, and handwritten notes, as well as identify banknotes and products via their barcode,” the Microsoft Accessibility Blog explains. “Leveraging on-device facial-recognition technology, the app can even describe the physical appearance of people and predict their mood.”

Google’s called Lookout, was first announced last year. It helps those who are blind or have low vision identify information about their surroundings. It is currently available only on Pixel phones running Android 8.0 or newer, and in the US only. Google says it will bring the app to more devices, countries, and platforms soon.

“Lookout draws upon similar underlying technology as Google Lens, which lets you search and take action on the objects around you, simply by pointing your phone,” Google’s Patrick Clary explains. “Since we announced Lookout at Google I/O last year, we’ve been working on testing and improving the quality of the app’s results.”

Both apps target the over 250 million worldwide with serious vision problems.

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