Artificial intelligence has emerged as a powerful tool in improving the lives of the visually impaired. Its innovative applications and devices unlock fresh opportunities, enabling the recognition of surroundings, improving mobility, and facilitating seamless communication and education. However, there are also limitations and ethical concerns associated with the use of AI for the visually impaired.
Ways AI can help the visually impaired
- Recognizing and narrating the world around them using apps and wearables that use AI and machine learning to process images and sounds.
- Improving their mobility and safety using self-driving cars, automated vehicles, and smart devices that use AI to sense, react, and adapt to the external environment.
- Enhancing their communication and education using AI-powered voice assistants, text-to-speech translations, real-time captioning, and smart glasses that can provide vision-free interaction and access to information.
Limitations of AI for the visually impaired
- Causing vision and mental fatigue, eye strain, and sleep problems due to prolonged exposure to internet-enabled sensors, blue light, and artificial voices.
- Failing to recognize some obstacles, digital displays, texts on irregular surfaces, and out-of-frame movements that may pose challenges or dangers for the visually impaired.
- Depending on the availability and quality of internet connection, data sources, and battery life, which may affect the reliability and accuracy of AI assistance.
- Raising ethical concerns about privacy, security, consent, accountability, and social inclusion of the visually impaired who use AI devices.
Noteworthy AI Apps for the Visually Impaired
Seeing AI, a no-cost application crafted by Microsoft for iOS devices, harnesses the device’s camera to bring the world to life through spoken descriptions. This versatile app showcases the power of AI as it identifies text, individuals, objects, colors, and even currency. Its creation was a collaborative effort, designed with insights from the blind and low vision community. Seeing AI extends its assistance to a multitude of daily tasks, including reading short text, capturing printed materials, scanning barcodes, and much more. Furthermore, it offers an indoor navigation feature, guiding users through building layouts using audio cues. For iOS users interested in this invaluable tool, it’s conveniently available for free download from the App Store. However, some users have reported issues with accuracy, speed, and battery consumption.
Lookout, a free Android application, employs the device’s camera and sensors to audibly describe the surroundings. Utilizing computer vision, it furnishes information about the environment, recognizing both objects and text on your Android device. Lookout offers an exploration of your surroundings in six distinctive modes: Text, Explore (beta), Food labels, Documents, Currency, and Scan.
To utilize Lookout, it’s essential to ensure your device operates on Android version 6.0 or a higher version and supports one of the languages Lookout is compatible with. You can readily obtain Lookout from Google Play and initiate it by either stating “Ok Google, start Lookout” or tapping the Lookout app icon.
Nonetheless, some users have reported availability, compatibility, and privacy concerns.
Be My Eyes
Be My Eyes, a free application accessible on Android and iOS platforms, facilitates real-time video calls connecting visually impaired individuals with sighted volunteers. These volunteers assist with quick and straightforward tasks, forming a global community that spans both visually impaired and sighted individuals. The range of aid extends from color matching to confirming light statuses and aiding in meal preparation. At its core, the app showcases the fusion of technology and human empathy, extending sight to those facing vision loss. However, some users have reported reliability, quality, and wait time issues.
Aipoly Vision is a no-cost application accessible on both Android and iOS platforms, leveraging AI to recognize and narrate objects, colors, animals, plants, and scenes. Specifically crafted to aid individuals with visual impairments, the app facilitates the identification of objects and colors in their surroundings. To utilize the app, all that’s needed is to direct your phone towards the object of interest and activate the artificial intelligence by tapping any of the recognition buttons at the screen’s base, promptly vocalizing what it perceives. Users have, however, reported performance, functionality, and language support concerns.
Ariadne GPS, a navigation app tailored for visually impaired users, facilitates direction finding through vocalized maps and an inventive interface. This valuable tool is accessible on both Android and iOS platforms, offered at a price of $5.99. Some users have reported accuracy, usability, and cost-related issues.
These AI applications, despite their reported limitations, demonstrate the potential of AI in enhancing the lives of the visually impaired and promoting a more inclusive society.