Microsoft Launches 'Seeing AI' Talking Camera App for the Blind

Terry Joseph
July 13, 2017

The Redmond company revealed the effort a year ago at its Build developer show, demonstrating how a more developed version might help Saqib Shaikh, a Microsoft engineer on the team who lost his sight at age 7.

Shaikh says that the difference between this and similar apps is the speed of the neural nets: "One of the things we wanted to do was face recognition on device, and we've done that so within a few milliseconds you'll hear the result". Once the app is open, users will first have to select which channel they want to use.

The app guide's users, telling them, for example, if a document's edges aren't visible or if the camera isn't being held steadily. Seeing AI is a free app that narrates the world around you.

The app is now available in just six countries: The US, Canada, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore - however, Microsoft says that the app will be available in other countries soon. The app even tells you to move the camera if needed, in order to get a better view of the target. It can also guess things like age and emotion.

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The Seeing AI app is very simple to use. After scanning a product's barcode, in some cases you'll receive additional information about the product beyond just its name. The app shows off Microsoft's current capabilities in AI, while also addressing a group that the technology industry too often ignores.

While the app's basic functions are carried out on the device, experimental features such as "scene descriptions" require a cloud connection.

Scenes (early preview) - Hear an overall description of the scene captured.

Microsoft said Seeing AI demonstrates how technology can make the world more inclusive, and we couldn't agree more. Unfortunately, there's no word yet on an Android OS version of the app.

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