Distant Eyes – Volunteers, Cameras, and AI

Screen shot of smartphone folder of AI apps.

By Ashley Brow Colburn,

technology specialist at the Carroll Center for the Blind

Artificial intelligence has made a big difference to the everyday reading and identification needs of many blind and visually impaired people – those that have a smartphone and especially an iPhone. An AI app (program you download from the app store) works on a smartphone using its camera. Some like the free app TapTapSee identifies objects and read any barcode. Others especially SeeingAI which is also free read labels, phone numbers and more but only on iPhones, not Android phones. These camera and AI speech applications are great for identification and reading tasks, including the KNFB Reader which occasionally goes on sale for $50 instead of $100. If you have useful vision a simple, excellent, and free app called Super Vision Magnifier magnifies up to 80 times . you can lock an image in place while you look at it.

“But sometimes you just need a human touch. This is my blue shirt. Wonderful. But is there still a pizza stain on the bottom left? There are free applications for Apple devices and Android, such as Be My Eyes, where you can call a sighted volunteer who can see and assist through your back-facing camera.”

The volunteer will ask you to move the camera (on your phone) up, down, right or left to get a clear view of the item.Be My Eyes says it has over 2 million volunteers and they are friendly and helpful.

“I do not like calling strangers much and do not like spending money on things I can get for free. For this reason, I choose the Bespecular application. It is available on Apple devices. You take a still photo with the back-facing camera, record a question with your voice, and send it off into the network of volunteers, who will see it like a temporary voice mail. The question keeps getting passed around until someone answers it through a text reply or their own voice recording. If you are satisfied with the answer you can leave it as it is. Otherwise, you can keep getting responses until you decide to terminate the request. Sometimes people have different opinions on what is important to tell you, so you may like having a second opinion. You can also rate the volunteers, though I have never had a negative experience. Everyone has always been pleasant and very helpful.”
Apps in this post to be downloaded from the App Store for iPhones or the Google Play Store for Androids are:


SeeingAI, (iPhones and Pads only)

KNFB Reader

Super Vision Magnifier

Be MY Eyes

BeSpecular (iPhones and Pads only)

Another post called “Distant Eyes – AIRA” will be posted soon.

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