Microsoft's Seeing AI app for iOS is empowering the blind and the visually impaired to decipher the world around them, and it's now getting better.
Seeing AI now boasts more features, including handwriting recognition, and it's widening its reach. While it's still not available for Android, the iOS app is now available in 35 countries worldwide, including countries in the European Union.
Microsoft AI Focus
Microsoft held an AI Summit on Wednesday in San Francisco, where it unveiled its latest efforts to integrate artificial intelligence deep into its apps and services. The company announced AI features for Bing, Office 365, and more, aiming to improve the experience on all fronts.
"AI has come a long way in the ability to find information, but making sense of that information is the real challenge," says Kristina Behr of Microsoft's Artificial Intelligence and Research group.
"AI has really been integrated into society for many years," adds Jordi Ribas, Microsoft corporate vice president, who is leading AI products. "Sometimes, people have been using AI for a long time and they don't even realize it."
Microsoft Seeing AI Features
The Seeing AI app for iOS is getting smarter as well, tapping computer vision technology to help the blind and visually impaired make sense of what's going on around them. The app launched earlier this year in the United States and saw 100,000 downloads since then, helping users with more than three million tasks, so Microsoft decided to expand its availability and offer it in 35 countries in total.
In addition to wider availability, Seeing AI is also boasting several new features to improve the whole experience and be even more helpful. First of all, the app can now recognize more currencies including U.S. dollars, Canadian dollars, British pounds, and Euros, which should significantly increase its usefulness. The app can now recognize handwriting as well, rather than just printed text, and it can also discern the color of various objects, such as clothes.
"When we first released this, we launched with features such as the ability to hear what a product is via audibly locating the barcode, describing images, text, and faces of friends and family as they come into view," Microsoft recalls. "Today, we're excited to announce new features coming to the app that will build on these early results, provide new user experiences and allow us to continue to learn and innovate."
Microsoft has also added a light detector, which enables the app to inform the user when the light is switched on. This feature aims to save users from having to check themselves by touching a hot light bulb, for instance. When the user enters a room where the light is on, the Seeing AI app will play an audible tone.
Lastly, users can now customize the voice and the speed that Seeing AI uses to talk. Seeing AI is available in Apple's App Store in 35 countries and users will be alerted to new features when they first launch the updated app.