Smartphones have been able to read printed text for a while, helping the blind view important documents. However, handwriting is still common in day-to-day use, and there hasn't really been an all-inclusive solution.
At its AI Summit in SanFrancisco on Wednesday, Microsoft announced an update for its Seeing AI app that will significantly help the vision-impaired. Simply, the app can now recognize and read written text aloud. Christmas cards will no longer be a mystery, and nor will currency in them.
Seeing AI now supports more currencies, including British pounds, US dollars, Canadian Dollars, and Euros. This includes recent changes to the notes. Though some blind people can differentiate by shape and texture, this should make it easier, especially if abroad.
Playing with the new toy – I know it's technically not new but #SeeingAI feels new with all the cool sassy features today 🙂 And before you ask, yes, it gets the new British notes as well as the old ones (and US, Euro & Canadian). Download and enjoy! #accessibility pic.twitter.com/XYr8VBO7Io
— Jenny Lay-Flurrie (@jennylayfluffy) December 14, 2017
An AI-driven Accessibility Revolution
With these features, Seeing AI is likely the best app for the blind. Microsoft has stated over and over again its belief that AI can solve some of the world's biggest problems, and it's making good on that.
As well as currency and handwriting, the Seeing AI v2.0 can recognize colors, making picking out clothes easier. It can also detect when a light is on, playing a music tone when pointed at a light-bulb. All of it is now available with customized voice speed and accents.
That customization should also enhance the app's previous features. Via either a smartphone or pivot glasses, it can tell users the facial expressions and age of those around them, as well as the actions they're performing.
With its v2 release, the features are now available in 35 countries, with the platform being the only major limitation. Currently, Seeing AI is only on iOS, so iPhone users can grab it from the App Store today.