Microsoft’s New iPhone App Helps the Vision Impaired Navigate the Real World

Posted on July 12, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in iOS, Mobile with 7 Comments

Microsoft today announced a new app for iPhone called Seeing AI that helps those with low vision navigate through the real world. Basically, it uses AI (artificial intelligence) to describe the people, text, and objects around you.

Like, seriously.

“Designed for the blind and low vision community, this ongoing research project harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to open up the visual world and describe nearby people, text, and objects,” a new post to the Microsoft Accessibility Blog explains. “The app uses artificial intelligence and the camera on your iPhone to perform a number of useful functions.”

Those functions include:

Reading documents. Seeing AI recognizes the structure of documents, such as headings, paragraphs, and lists, so you can skip through them easily using voiceover.

Identifying products. Seeing AI can identify products using barcodes and your iPhone’s camera.

Recognizing people. Seeing AI will provide a description of a person’s visual appearance, including their gender, facial expression, and other identifying characteristics.

Recognizing images within other apps. Seeing AI is available via the iOS Share interface so you can use it to recognize images in any app.

Seeing AI is essentially a research project, so it also includes some other experimental features, including a Scene channel that describes photos you capture with your iPhone’s camera.

“This app will be a game changer for many as it’s just simple to use,” Jenine Stanley, who is legally blind and reviews apps and technology for the American Council of the Blind’s tech radio show, told Microsoft.

You can learn more at the Seeing AI website.

Seeing AI is available for free from the Apple Apps Store in the United States, Canada, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore. Microsoft says it will bring the app to more countries in the near future.


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