Microsoft Research has published a blog discussing a new project knowns as PeopleLens. This is a new artificial intelligence (AI) model that helps young people who are blind and those around them communicate more efficiently.
Children with visual impairment face challenges when learning to interact. For example, knowing which direction to move their head when talking. Issues with communication can lead to blind learners becoming isolated from their peer group, leading to frustration.
PeopleLens aims to improve communication methods for blind children, but also for people who communicate with blind learners. It is a headset device that uses AI to read aloud to the wearer, using spatialized audio to say the names of known people when the blind person looks at them.
For example, if person A talks to the blind wearer from one direction, the PeopleLens will highlight the direction for the person to look, also providing awareness of position and distance. In the blog, Microsoft Research offers the following description:
“For children and young people who are blind, the PeopleLens is a way to find their friends; however, for teachers and parents, it’s a way for these children and young people to develop competence and confidence in social interaction. An accompanying scheme of work aims to guide the development of spatial attention skills believed to underpin social interaction through a series of games that learners using the PeopleLens can play with peers.
It also sets up situations in which learners can experience agency in social interaction. A child’s realization that they can choose to initiate a conversation because they spot someone first or that they can stop a talkative brother from speaking by looking away is a powerful moment, motivating them to delve deeper into directing their own and others’ attention.”
PeopleLens is still in the prototype phase. It works with Nreal Light augmented reality glasses and not Microsoft’s own HoloLens headset. Nreal Lights are attached are connected to a phone. Microsoft says the system is not yet ready to be available for retail.
So far, the company is still looking for learners in the UK (aged 5 to 11) to help further the development of the technology. Microsoft says this is a multistage research project in collaboration with the University of Bristol.
Tip of the day: Windows lets you use Cortana to translate sentences, words, or phrases, with the results read back to you automatically. This makes it particularly useful for group scenarios, but you can also type if you’re unsure about pronunciation. Cortana translation sports an impressive 40 languages and utilizes machine learning to provide natural results in many cases. Check our full guide to learn how to use Cortana for quick translations.