Back at Build 2016 previous year Microsoft introduced the prototype version of Seeing AI, an app which assists the vision-impaired. With the app, you can simply focus your phone's camera on an object or person, and then you'll get a narration about what it is or who they are and even how they're feeling. Similarly, when reading documents to users, Seeing AI will provide spoken hints to ensure that all corners of the paper are properly captured. Seeing AI is a free app that narrates the world around you.
The most important difference between Seeing AI and other similar apps is that most functions, like face recognition, are carried out directly on the device, giving the app a significant speed advantage.
The Seeing AI app is very simple to use. As you point the camera at things in the world around you, the app will describe that world in a quick, informative manner.
The app is iOS only right now, and is only available in certain Apple App Stores (US, Canada, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore), but Microsoft is promising that it will come soon to other countries. It can also guess things like age and emotion.
The app can be used in conjunction with social media apps, such as Facebook, to describe images. After scanning a product's barcode, in some cases you'll receive additional information about the product beyond just its name.
Microsoft also today announced at an AI event in London, a new program called AI for Earth. "As the research progresses, more channels may be added", the developers say via the app description. The first experimental feature is scene descriptions.
Arthur C Clarke once said that any sufficiently advanced technology was indistinguishable from magic, and Microsoft's Seeing AI app gets pretty close to qualifying.