A Week With Microsoft’s Seeing AI App

Microsoft’s Seeing AI app , which helps blind and partially sighted people by narrating the world around them, was released
in the UK last week.
The free program uses artificial intelligence to recognise objects, people and text via a phone or tablet’s camera and describes them to the user.
After a week using the app we thought we would share how it performed.


Text – speaks text as soon as it appears in front of the camera. I tried this by pointing the iPhone camera at a MacBook displaying a web page and the app immediately read out the text on the page with no problems.
I also tried the short channel to read an address on an envelope and some receipts and the accuracy was impressive.


Documents – provides audio guidance to capture a printed page, and recognise the text, along with its original formatting.
Very easy to scan a letter – feedback was excellent saying that the edges of the letter I was scanning was not visible, so I made some minor adjustments and then Seeing AI said ‘Hold Steady’ and immediately processed the letter with good audio feedback.
I thought the results were comparable to KNFB Reader.


Products – scans barcodes, using audio beeps to guide you; hear the name, and package information when available.
Best results were obtained on canned food as for some reason it had some issues finding the barcode on packets of cereal and packet soups. This may take a little more practice but other barcode readers could well be replaced with this feature.


People – allows users to saves friends’ faces in their contact list so they can be recognised later.
You are requested to take 3 photos of the person and then enter their name.
Seeing AI spoke the persons name when I pointed the iPhone camera at them.

Scenes (early preview) – hear an overall description of the scene captured.
Mixed results here – managed to find the car in our driveway but said the tree in our garden was ‘trees and pathway near a river’. Seems it picked up the adjacent road in my estate as a river.

Images in other apps – just tap “Share” and “Recognise with Seeing AI” to describe images from emails, photos, Twitter and more.
Worked a treat with an image sent using What’s App.
Even managed to say the ages of the people in the image – not sure if this was entirely accurate but did say they had a moustache!
This will be of great benefit as my friends tend to send an image with no text to explain the image, despite me encouraging them to do so.
The Seeing AI app will certainly replace at least 2 or 3 apps I use on a regular basis and which cost a lot.

I would suggest that when using the app in company, for example at a meeting with others, you use headphones.

It was noticeable that my iPhone battery started to get really warm when using the ‘Product’ channel.

I think Microsoft has done a fantastic job at providing a totally accessible, feature packed and free app which I am sure will get even better.


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