Microsoft launches free iOS app for visually impaired


Microsoft has launched Seeing AI, a free iOs app for people who are blind or visually impaired that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to ‘narrate’ their surroundings.

With the app on their mobile phone the user points the phone, selects a channel and the phone describes what it sees.

Currently the app has five channels that enable it to:

  • Read short snippets of text.
  • Provide audio guidance to capture a printed page, and recognise the text, along with its original formatting.
  • Give audio beeps to help locate barcodes and then scan them to identify products.
  • Recognise friends and describe people around you, including their emotions.
  • An experimental feature to describe the scene around you.

A sixth channel, to identify currency bills when paying with cash, is promised soon. There is a series of short videos on the Seeing AI website explaining how to use each channel. Seeing AI was among a series of landmark research projects announced by Microsoft at a recent AI event in London hosted by Harry Shum, Executive Vice-President of Microsoft’s AI and Research Group.

Also announced at the event was Presentation Translator, a PowerPoint add-in that gives presenters the ability to add subtitles to their presentations across the same language or more than 60 different languages.

Audience members in the room can also follow along with the presentation in their own language, including the speaker’s language, on their phone, tablet or computer by using a QR code. This feature can also be used for audiences who are deaf or hard of hearing.


About Contributors

Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.


  1. Dr. Edwin Arenas on

    Techinical information is excellent for students of average intelligence but not always for students who have severe cognitive learning disabilities. One on one teacher to individualized student training would be the better solution.

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