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New AI answers blind people’s questions about the items around...
Activist Lucy Edwards teared up at how much the new feature helped her (Pictures: Instagram/@lucyedwardsofficial/Be My Eyes)
A new virtual assistant answers blind people’s questions about everything around them.
The artificial intelligence is a fresh feature of the Be My Eyes app, which connects blind and partially sighted people with volunteers on a video chat.
It can help with everyday tasks many take for granted, such as knowing what colour an item of clothing is or what ingredients there are in a supermarket product.
But those who rely on the app will soon be able to get hold of this information without having to wait for a volunteer.
The new Virtual Volunteer tool uses image-to-text technology which allows blind people to photograph what they are looking at and ask questions about it.
Lucy Edwards, a content creator and disability activist who has been blind for 10 years, has been testing the feature for Be My Eyes.
As someone who is ‘obsessed with fashion’, she was brought to tears when the assistant was able to describe in detail what a model was wearing in a Chanel catalogue.www.instagram.com/p/Cp0nM6hoNke/ Blind and partially sighted people currently use the app to video call volunteers (Picture: Be My Eyes)
She said: ‘I’ve always dreamed of buying books like this. I know it’s stupid I’m crying over a book but it’s more than that to me.’
She also used it to translate the name of products in a Chinese supermarket before the app went on to offer her recipes she could use the items in.
Lucy was filmed using the app to navigate a gym, saying the feature ‘gave her autonomy back’.
She previously spoke to Metro.co.uk during the pandemic about the lack of accessibility of Covid-19 tests.
CEO of Be My Eyes, Mike Buckley, told Mashable several users of the app did not like the human aspect of it.
Some said they ‘didn’t want to take a volunteer away from someone who might need them more’ and others reported being ‘wary about calling a stranger or a paid agent’.www.instagram.com/p/Cp50wkkoTJq/
Mike said: ‘Up to this point we just haven’t seen a technological tool that would solve these needs quickly enough and accurately enough to launch something like this.’
The Denmark-based company says its AI has ‘a deeper level of understanding and conversational ability not yet seen in the digital assistant field’.
If the Virtual Volunteer cannot answer questions correctly, it will automatically give users the option to speak to a person.
The Virtual Volunteer is still in the middle of being tested but Be My Eyes expects it to be freely available to the public later this year.
The company said: ‘Imagine navigating a train system in an unfamiliar place, travelling in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, browsing websites and social media platforms, online shopping, and a host of other ways we know our community will help us identify – the possibilities are limitless, and we’re just getting started.’
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