How the Seeing AI app supports visually impaired people to access the world around them

Christopher volunteers for the Sense employment service, supporting disabled people with seeking employment and using assistive technology. He is also severely sight impaired. He has years of experience in the mental health and disability sectors. 

In our latest Sense tech review, he tells us all about Seeing AI: an app that uses artificial intelligence to support visually impaired people with everyday tasks.

A close-up of a hand holding a smartphone, which is open to the camera in the Seeing AI app, pointing at an address on an envelope.

Lots of people I support use apps to help them with their daily living. One of the most popular apps among visually impaired people is Seeing AI. 

I also use and love this app myself. It’s one of the best free accessible apps on the tech market. 

What is Seeing AI?

Seeing AI is an app made by Microsoft that uses artificial intelligence to identify things via your phone’s camera. 

It then gives you an audio description of what it can see. This supports visually impaired people with all kinds of challenges and needs they might come across in day-to-day life. 

What can Seeing AI do?

One of the most useful things you can use Seeing AI for is to read signs and other text you see out and about. The app can read aloud any short text you put in front of the camera.

It can even read longer documents and handwritten notes, too. You just need to capture the words on camera, and the app will read it out.

You can also use Seeing AI in the supermarket, to help you pick out food. The app gives audio beeps to help you locate the barcode on products, and then scans the products to help you identify them. 

Then, when you’re at the till, the app can help you pay by identifying the value of your notes when paying with cash.

The app can also support your social life, by recognising friends and describing people around you, including their emotions. 

You can also ask it to set the scene by describing your surroundings to you. Also, Seeing AI can create an audible tone corresponding to the brightness in your surroundings. 

My review of Seeing AI

Obviously, every sight impaired person is different. But Seeing AI is very popular in the visual impairment community.

It’s very accessible, and compatible with the needs many of us have from day to day.

It’s great that it gives you so many options, and that it’s free to download. 

It’s also now available in Italian, Turkish, Dutch, German, French, Japanese and Spanish.

The main negative is that Seeing AI is only accessible on iOS devices. This makes it less accessible for people without an iPhone.

For Android users, an app similar to Seeing AI is called Lookout. Like Seeing AI, Lookout uses the phone’s camera. 

Lookout can help with similar everyday tasks, like sorting through your post or doing your grocery shopping.

In general, I believe that artificial intelligence is the future of accessible tech to support daily living and mobility. It might sound futuristic, but Seeing AI is a great example of how AI is already supporting people to see the world around them through an app.