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Five Things You Should Know About The Seeing AI App

One of the main aims of technology is to make things better, to enhance experiences and make life easier and more fun. This should be true for everyone irrespective of the different demographics like age, gender, social status and more especially whether you have a disability or are visually impaired.


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The evolution of technology can be seen in an app that was created to make visually impaired people have a life that is more exciting and personal for them while enhancing their experiences, thus the birth of the Seeing AI app. The Seeing AI app is an app for visually impaired people that narrates the world around them. It is a Microsoft research project that utilizes AI and cloud computing to describe people, text, currency, colour and objects to those who are blind or have low vision.

How it works

With the intelligent camera app, the user points the phone’s camera to the object or person, selects a channel and holds up the phone to hear a description of what the AI has recognized around him.

Five things you should know about the Seeing AI App

  • It turns the visual world into an audio experience. With the intelligent camera app, the user points the phone’s camera to the object or person and holds up the phone to hear a description of the world around him.
  • It recognizes and locates the faces of people you are with and describes their facial expressions, approximate age, emotion, facial characteristics, etc.
  • It reads text quickly by reading a short snippet of text immediately. It also gives audio guidance to capture full document for the AI to read it.
  • It scans barcodes with audio cues so as to identify products.
  • It describes scenes around you using the power of the AI.

History of the Seeing AI app

The Seeing AI was premiered during Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft) Build 2016 keynote. Like every functional tech or app, the Seeing AI was inspired by personal experience. Seeing AI, previously known as Deep Vision, was created by Anirudh Koul – a data scientist working with machine learning and natural language processing in Bing. In 2014, Koul’s grandfather’s vision was gradually fading and it became increasingly difficult to recognize his grandson, Koul during Skype calls. Koul was able to build Deep Vision using computer vision, Microsoft’s vision-to-language technology and image classification system by Microsoft research team. Once these fundamentals were ready, Koul recruited people to join his project for the 2015 Hackathon. Over time, he recruited some of the Microsoft research team as well as other individuals with different capabilities for the project. They identified three scenarios that birth the solution:

  1. Mapping indoor worlds in 3-D and navigate it with only a camera without GPS or Wi-Fi;
  2. The ability to ask questions about objects and text in the physical world; and
  3. Describing the surrounding.

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These scenarios helped answer critical questions about what the app can do and will do. After winning the 2015 hackathon as well as several awards, they built a demo for Build 2016 where some of Microsoft interns worked together with them to build the next version of the app as Seeing AI. By this time, they developed more scenarios – reading words aloud into an earpiece and explaining images or surroundings. In 2017, the Seeing AI app was released and has helped the users with over 3 million tasks.

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Aanuoluwapo Olajide

Aanuoluwapo Olajide is a freelance writer who believes that words are fundamental blocks and are the force of life and death. She is a tech enthusiast, fashion designer and a lover of words.

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