Living with vision loss in the last five years is kind of exciting. I’ve talked about how much my portable smartphone allows greater accessibility with things I do for work and fun. And what would I ever do without podcasts? Cold sweats just thinking about it. Besides pods, there are countless apps out there making life more manageable like magnifier apps, navigation apps, and audio description apps. It seems like every other week I hear about a new program. Whether it’s from a for-profit company or a group of students at a tech college creating something for the greater good, it boosts inclusivity.
I listen closely when friends with vision loss try an app, like my friend Jane who told me about Seeing AI by Microsoft. She explained it would read aloud her mail so she could sort it quickly which was a task that wasn’t possible with a basic magnifier. I have a magnifier app, Visor, that works with my low vision so I didn’t necessarily need that option except it could save on eye fatigue. Hmmm. Then she went on to explain other features like whole document reading and barcode scanning which sounded helpful. I was still on the fence though. Good technology can cost in money spent and the time to learn it.
She eliminated my worry when she told me: it’s free and user-friendly. I was astonished the complex technology she was describing was free and pleased about the good design. Finally my friend Joy from Double Vision blog mentioned that she recommended it, too.
She tested out my favorite feature: the facial recognition part. If you hold the app up to someone and take a photo, it processes. It recites a brief description including an estimated age of the person. Photographs can be processed, too.
With two solid endorsements, I didn’t need any more selling. I downloaded Seeing AI. Stockton and I had a grand old time holding up different photos and going through the Camera Rolls on our phones to see what it would describe. By the way, I’m not actually using the feature in the most involved way because I’m not telling the app who the people are so it will recognize faces in the future for me. I’m still not liking the idea of holding my phone up in a crowd and scanning it around, having the phone talk to me. I think that would just be a little weird in public for my comfort level. I would be able to do that function I think if it was like Google Glasses and I had an invisible earpiece that would tell me, ‘Sandra is on the left side at the table’. That would be incredible and discreet.
Also, the app struggles to decipher handwriting, which is a common thing with similar technology I’ve tried before. Text always works best.
By the way, I refreshed my podcasts just now and I have another reason for you to try Seeing AI. This week, Reid My Mind Radio posted a review of it. It must be the next big thing.
There’s only one question left: does this mean I’m cheating on my Visor low vision app? Don’t fear, I still love my magnifier app with contrast. I’ll use it when I don’t want an app to be reading aloud or I forget earbuds. I’m so familiar with how the camera zooms in on items that I can’t see myself moving away from it entirely. In the meantime I’m going to get a kick out of scanning random barcodes and hearing product info. This is going to make the grocery store a whole lot more fun. And I will laugh as the facial recognition program tells me stuff like a photo of mine from last week pegs me at 10 years older than I actually am. I guess I need more sleep and a little less screen time. Powering down.
Have you used Seeing AI? What do you think of accessibility apps? Would you use verbal facial recognition software in public? Is handwriting obsolete? Tell me about it.