The Blind Are Seeing the World Through Artificial Intelligence

The Blind Are Seeing the World Through Artificial Intelligence

Aipoly uses machine vision and text-to-speech technology to identify and describe photos of everyday objects to visually impaired users

Kristina Denstitt
  • 11 september 2015

There’s no doubt that smartphones make our lives easier. As smartphone technology becomes more sophisticated with each passing year, however, it’s worthwhile to ask: are these helping devices truly serving the needs of every person who requires assistance in their daily lives? Could mobile technology be reaching more people who truly need it? Aipoly is a smartphone app that acts as an intelligent assistant to the non-sighted user

Students at Singularity University—a Silicon Valley-based benefit corporation, educational program, and startup accelerator that researches emerging technology to develop unique solutions to the challenges that modern communities face—asked the above questions, and their answer could change the way that the 285 million visually impaired people worldwide experience their lives.

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When a user snaps a picture in Aipoly, the image is automatically uploaded to Aipoly’s servers, where it is analyzed and tagged. This allows a description to be sent back to the user, which is then read aloud using text-to-speech.

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From reading street signs to allowing blind parents to be able to answer their children’s questions about their surroundings, Aipoly can offer convenience and an improved quality of life to its users. Some early testers of the app, including Rob Turner, President of the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind, describe the impact Aipoly could have on their lives:

When I’m walking around it would be wonderful to have access to street signs, maybe even just being able to get a perspective. ‘Hey, what’s around here, what am I looking at? What building is in front of me? What kind of car is this? ‘As a blind person you don’t really think about the things that you might be able to see because you aren’t aware of them. So I might not even have all the possible ideas of how much this will be useful to me.

Singularity University estimates that two-thirds of the visually impaired people in the world will become smartphone users in the next five years, making technology like Aipoly essential for this growing market.

Aipoly is currently in beta testing. Those who are interested in contributing can sign up for the beta on the Aipoly website. The team welcomes both the sighted and non-sighted to participate.


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