How Artificial Intelligence is improving Lives

Artificial Intelligence is helping visually impaired people all over the world

There are more than 350,000 vision impaired people in Australia. Exciting news is emerging that advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) are beginning to make everyday activities for these people more accessible.

What is Artificial Intelligence?!

Artificial intelligence is sometimes called ‘machine intelligence’. That is, intelligence demonstrated by machines, as opposed to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. Artificial intelligence is the branch of computer sciences that has a focus on developing intelligent machines designed to think and work like humans. Examples include speech recognition, problem-solving, learning and planning.

How is AI helping those who are visually impaired?

Over a very short period of time, a whole new genre of devices has evolved called “smart speakers”. Amazon were the market leaders a couple of years ago when they introduced us to their Amazon Echo. Google then jumped on board with their Google Home Assistant device and now there is the Apple Home Pod, among a few others.

The smart speaker is a stand-alone speaker that connects to the WiFi in the home, has very few controllers on the surface and is used by way of verbal commands. I’ve no doubt that on this side of Christmas the words “Hey Google” are no stranger to many households across Australia! It’s the ‘wake up’ phrase used to activate google’s home device. For example, one would say “Hey Google”, followed by a question or command such as “what is the weather forecast for Marrickville today?“, “What is the phone number for Sydney Ophthalmic Specialists?“, “Set a timer for 5 minutes“, “I need a recipe for chocolate brownies“, “Add milk to the shopping list” or even “Play ABC radio“.

The list is endless!!

As there is no screen, all the interaction with the device is verbal.

While some smart speakers have been able to make phone calls (using the home’s WiFi) for some time now, there are still other speakers that are catching up with this feature. Another feature that is assisting vision impaired people is the ability to send and receive text messages. Again, some smart speakers have this feature already while others are still in the development phase & working as quickly as they can to catch up with their competitors.

A device that may have been initially conceived as a personal information and entertainment portal, has also been commended for it’s accessibility & potential to assist people who are blind or vision impaired.  Artificial intelligence is making way for easy access to a great deal of information and services that used to be only available to those who were computer literate. There is something about the convenience of using a quick verbal command to answer a question, read a book or play some music that every person can appreciate, most of all someone with a vision impairment.