Microsoft Seeing AI app lands on Android to help blind and visually impaired users

Available for iOS and now Android, the Seeing AI app can identify people, recognize currency, read text, scan barcodes, and describe the scene in front of you.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
The Seeing AI in action

Navigating the world around you is certainly challenging if you're blind or sight impaired. One tool that can help is a free mobile app from Microsoft called Seeing AI. Designed to alert and inform people about their environment, the app is now accessible to Android users after having been limited to iOS.

In a blog post published Monday, Saqib Shaikh, founder and lead for Microsoft Seeing AI, announced the expansion to Android and highlighted some of the app's latest features.

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Available in the App Store and Google Play, Seeing AI works by identifying and describing people, objects, text, and other elements around you. The goal is to help you better navigate your surroundings and understand documents and other physical items by hearing them read aloud.

First up is text recognition. Fire up the app and hold your phone over a piece of printed or written text. Upon recognition, Seeing AI will start reading the text aloud until it gets to the end.

Next is document recognition. Hold your phone over a full document, and the app will scan and display the words. You can then listen to the document read aloud by playing, pausing, skipping ahead, or going back as needed.

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Another handy feature is a barcode reader that will identify and speak information about a product based on the code scan. Next, you can snap a photo of your surrounding environment, and the app will describe the overall scene as well as individual items in the photo.

A people reader will scan a person captured by the camera and then highlight their visual characteristics, adding in their distance away from you. Finally, a currency scanner will analyze a bill or coin to tell you its value.

As part of the transition to Android, the app also sports a couple of recent enhancements.

Scanning a photo now provides richer descriptions of the details captured in the image. Plus, you're now able to ask Seeing AI more questions about a scanned document. As a few examples, you can learn about dishes on a menu, get the prices of items on a catalog page, or hear a summary of an article.

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"There are over 3 billion active Android users worldwide, and bringing Seeing AI to this platform will provide so many more people in the blind and low vision community the ability to utilize this technology in their everyday lives," Shaikh said in the blog post. "We will continue to work with the community to understand feedback to improve the app. And as additional versions roll out, customer feedback will continue to be critical for new AI-powered enhancements to future versions of the Seeing AI app."

Shaikh, who lost his sight at the age of seven, said that the Android version and new features were launched in celebration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). Seeing AI is now available in 18 languages including Czech, Danish, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. Microsoft plans to expand support to 36 languages in 2024.

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