Seeing AI

Listed in: Eyesight problems  
Seeing AI

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Supported languages:




App designed for people with visual impairments to describe in sound what the phone camera `sees’.

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Countries of use

Available in 70 countries including Albania, Argentina, Australia, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, European Union, Ghana, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, USA, UK and Zimbabwe. Gradually coming to more countries.




(Based in United States)



Medical Adviser



Support to deal with symptoms/disabilities Support to deal with symptoms/disabilities


Seeing AI is a free app designed for blind and low vision community.

It is an ongoing research project from Microsoft aiming to use the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to describe nearby people, text and objects.

Optimized for use with VoiceOver, the app enables people with visual impairment to recognise:

• Short Text - Speaks text as soon as it appears in front of the camera.
• Documents - Provides audio guidance to capture a printed page, and recognises the text, along with its original formatting.
• Products - Scans barcodes, using audio beeps to guide you; hear the name, and package information when available. (Works with iPhone 6 and later)
• People - Saves people’s faces so you can recognize them, and get an estimate of their age, gender, and emotions.
• Scenes (early preview) - Hear an overall description of the scene captured.
• Currency - Recognizes currency notes. (Requires iOS 11)
• Colour - Identifies colour.
• Handwriting - Reads handwritten text, for example in greeting cards
• Light - Generates an audible tone corresponding to the brightness in the surroundings.
• Images in other apps - Just tap “Share” and “Recognise with Seeing AI” to describe images from Mail, Photos, Twitter, and more.
• Photo browsing experience - Describes photos on your phone

Support for the app includes:

Tags: Health, Wellness & Care in the Community (HWCC)


Reviewer: Matt Harrison, Technology Services Manager at The Beacon Centre, writing in a blog from the Macular Society, a UK charity fighting to end sight loss caused by macular disease.

“Although artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for a while now, the main AI technology to reach the visual impairment market is the talking camera.

Broadly, AI means that computers interpret the information they receive and tailor their responses based on our behaviour. You may already be familiar with apps such as TapTapSee and VocalEyes, but Microsoft’s Seeing AI (currently only available on Apple devices) is a cut above the rest. 

Seeing AI combines the functionality of these predecessors with that of optical character recognition (OCR) apps that scan and read text aloud.

The free, easy-to-use app can scan and read formatted text, learn and recognise faces, scan barcodes to identify products, and interpret general scenes.

The range of features and its accuracy are remarkable – but what impresses me most is the simple, intuitive way in which the app is controlled. 

With my previous favourite OCR app, you had to hold the phone above a document and then capture it by pressing a shutter button with your other hand: no mean feat, even for the most dextrous of us. If you didn’t capture the whole document, tough. You got what you snapped.

With Seeing AI, however, you receive verbal hints that tell you whether the camera can see the entire document. And there is no need to wrestle with your phone to keep it steady while hitting the shutter button: the app automatically takes the photo for you. 

If you think that the scene description mode is good, then wait until you try the facial recognition setting! Not only can Seeing AI learn familiar faces, but it will also interpret moods and predict ages. This last feature could offend the more sensitive subject, but it proved quite accurate when I tried it at home (much to my wife’s chagrin).

The product scanner is a great help in the supermarket too. For me, zapping the barcode will mean the end of buying apple sauce when I want mustard, or spearmint when I want peppermint. 

Later versions of the app also include banknote detection, handwriting recognition, and modes to gauge light levels or identify colours. 

As ever, the app is not perfect, but it is rapidly becoming the must-have app of the year.”

Weblink of reviewer:
Reviewer: The American Council of the Blind is the USA’s leading grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired.

“The American Council of the Blind presented Anirudh Koul, Senior Data Scientist, and his team at Microsoft with the James R. Olsen Distinguished Award for their Seeing AI application, which has significantly enhanced the independence and quality of life for Americans who are blind or visually impaired. 

This award is given to individuals or organizations that have made important contributions which have advanced opportunities for the blind community.

“When adding up the cost of the single-use products that Seeing AI replaces, it is easy to see why this mighty little application deserves recognition by the members of the American Council of the Blind,” said Brian Charlson, Director of Technology at the Carroll Center for the Blind. “This program has changed the world of technology for people who are blind or have low vision.”

Due to its no-cost and multi-use capabilities, the application has been downloaded over 150,000 times and completed over 5 million tasks for users.”

Usage: Not specified
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Reviewer: UK patient group the Royal National Institute of Blind people (RNIB)

“Designed for the blind and partially sighted community, the app harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to open up the visual world and describe nearby people, text and objects.”

The app, currently only available on iOS, uses the device’s camera to perform a number of useful functions including:

  • Reading documents – with spoken hints to make sure the user captures the full page. It then recognises the structure of the document such as headings, paragraphs and lists, allowing the user to rapidly skip through the document using VoiceOver.
  • Identifying a product based on its barcode – simply move the phone’s camera over the product; beeps indicate how close the barcode is (the faster the beeps, the closer it is) until the full barcode is detected. It then snaps a photo and reads the name of the product.
  • Recognising people based on their face – and providing a description of their visual appearance such as their gender, facial expression and other identifying characteristics.
  • Recognising images within other apps – just tap Share and Recognise with Seeing AI.

Because the app is still a work in progress, there are some features that are considered “experimental”.

Usage: Not specified
Weblink of reviewer:

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