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Spring 2019

By Chris Tabb, Statewide Orientation and Mobility Specialist, TSBVI Outreach Program

Abstract: Chris Tabb provides an update on recent apps that provide access for users with visual
impairment and blindness. 

Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, AI, App, Microsoft, Independent Living Skill, ILS, Assistive Technology, AT, Accessibility, VoiceOver, iOS

 

A group of apps are now available that use “Artificial Intelligence”, or AI, to provide information for users who are blind or have vision loss. These apps do not replace basic skills and strategies, though they can help make life a bit easier and more efficient.
 

One popular app is Seeing AI, from Microsoft https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/seeing-ai. Their website describes the app as a “free app that narrates the world around you. Designed for the low vision community, this research project harnesses the power of AI to describe people, text and objects”. At the present time, this app is only available on the iOS platform. For more information on the product and its development, go to https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/garage/wall-of-fame/seeing-ai/.
 

Another free and very useful app is Envision AI, described as “a tool that uses artificial intelligence to make visual information accessible to visually impaired. With Envision AI, “visually impaired users can shop in supermarkets, use public transport, read menu cards in restaurants, recognisze their friends, find their belongings and so much more, all on their own.” (https://www.letsenvision.com) Envision AI is available on the iOS platform as well as for Android devices.

Finally, TapTapSee (https://www.bespecular.com) supports both platforms and is free as well. Here is a description from their website: “TapTapSee is a mobile camera application designed specifically for blind and visually impaired users, powered by the CloudSight Image Recognition API. TapTapSee utilizes your device’s camera and VoiceOver functions to take a picture or video of anything and identify it out loud for you.”

In addition to apps that use AI, there are other apps that use people to help describe what the camera of the smartphone or smart device sees; these apps are considered “Crowd Sourced”. Be My Eyes (https://www.bemyeyes.com) is one such app and is available for both Android and iOS devices. The website for Be My Eyes describes it as a free app that connects people who are blind or have low vision with sighted volunteers and company representatives through a live video call. BeSpecular (https://www.bespecular.com) is a similar app, though instead of a video connection, the user sends a photo with questions about specific information that is needed. BeSpecular is free and available for both device platforms.

So whether you are looking for a way to identify print and have it read aloud, trying to match clothing, or want assistance in finding the expiration date on a product, there are apps that can help. All of the apps mentioned here are free, which makes them perfect for trying to see if they match your needs.

Until next time…