Microsoft new iPhone app uses AI to describe the world around you

Microsoft new iPhone app uses AI to describe the world around you

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Microsoft Seeing AI
Seeing AI can recognize faces and guess age and emotion.
Photo: Microsoft

Its incredible accessibility features make the iPhone the perfect smartphone for the visually impaired. And it just got even better, thanks to a new app from Microsoft that uses artificial intelligence to describe the world around you.

First demonstrated at Microsoft’s Build conference back in March, Seeing AI lets iPhone users obtain spoken information about the objects and people around them. You simply point your camera, and Seeing AI uses artificial intelligence to tell you what you’re looking at.

Not only can it identify random objects and scan product barcodes, Seeing AI can even identify people it has seen before, and guess the approximate age and emotion of complete strangers. It can also read and scan documents and recognize U.S. currency.

The magic behind Seeing AI is a neural network, like those used to power self-driving cars, the new features coming to Siri in iOS 11, and Google’s incredible artificial intelligence applications. And because most tasks are carried out on your iPhone, Seeing AI works without data.

Microsoft’s Saqib Shaikh, the tech lead on Seeing AI, told The Verge that the most common use for the app is document and sign reading. However, the company has focused on making facial recognition one of its best features.

“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,” Shaikh said. “It’s all about the speed, and we try to do as much as we can on the device.”

Unlike other apps that offer similar functionality, Seeing AI can tell you how to position your iPhone’s camera to perfectly capture whatever it is you want to identify. This makes it even more useful to those with impaired vision.

Seeing AI is incredibly intelligent, and an amazing demonstration of how artificial intelligence can be used to make our lives easier. Whether you need it or not, it’s well worth checking out. You can download it in the U.S. now from the App Store.