Millions of people who are blind or severely visually impaired can, as of last Tuesday, download the new Spanish, German, French, Japanese and Dutch versions of Seeing AI, Microsoft’s app that describes scenes and photos aloud.

Its launch coincides with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, whose lives it aims to make “a little easier”. That’s what says Saqib Shaikh, the Microsoft engineer in charge of this app’s project, whose English version was released in 2017. Shaikh is also blind and started in this “as a hobby”. “My goal was to use artificial intelligence to help visually impaired people”.

Seeing AI has different channels or modes that allow the reading of short texts and labels (through the telephone camera); the recognition of bar codes; the scanning and subsequent reading of longer documents (also those handwritten); the identification of colors; the determination of coins and bills (dollars, euros, pounds…); facial recognition; the calibration of brightness through beeps, and the description of scenes, whether natural environments, photographs taken with the telephone or images of other apps such as WhatsApp or Hotmail.

“All of this is spoken out loud by the app”, and “that’s why it’s so important to launch other language versions”, says Shaikh, “it was something that users asked us for from the beginning. Since Seeing AI was released, all users have been able to communicate their complaints and suggestions for improvement to the developer team, “always with the purpose of improving the app and adapting better to the demands”.


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