Microsoft is expanding its Seeing AI app to Android, the company said Monday. It's now available on the Google Play Store and works across 18 languages, with plans to expand to 36 languages next year.
Seeing AI narrates a person's surroundings and is designed to help blind and low-vision people carry out tasks like reading mail, identifying products and hearing descriptions of photos. Users point their phone's camera, snap a picture and then will hear a description.
The app has different categories for various tasks. For example, the Short Text function will speak aloud text as soon as it shows up in front of the camera. The People feature will identify those around you. And the Currency function will identify money. The Scenes feature lets you hear a description of a setting you've photographed, and you can move your finger across the screen to hear the locations of different objects. Seeing AI can also read handwritten text and identify colors.
The app is already available on iPhone and iPad. Both Android and iOS versions include updated features like photo descriptions with more details and an option to ask questions about a document you've scanned, such as what's on a menu or the price of an item on a receipt. You can also ask it to summarize an article.
"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," Seeing AI's founder Saqib Shaikh said in a blog post. "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."
In recent years, other tech giants like Google and Apple have also released features geared toward users who are blind or low vision. Google's Lookout app helps people identify objects and read documents using their phone's camera, and Guided Frame on Pixel uses audio cues and haptics to help people frame their selfies. Apple's Point and Speak feature reads aloud text labels as people point to them, and Door Detection on iPhone and iPad helps people who are blind or low vision locate a door when arriving at a new place.