Solutions are helping the visually impaired use public transport and gain independence
Microsoft is supporting China’s non-profit organisations with artificial intelligence (AI) powered solutions which help the visually impaired to know what is in front of them and help to reunite families with lost children.
The Chinese version of Seeing AI was one of the solutions presented at the Artificial Intelligence for Good event held at Microsoft offices in Beijing, China. Over 130 representatives from 78 non-profit organisations shared their experiences and solutions.
“Since Microsoft entered China, we’ve helped over 100 non-profits by providing monetary and technology support worth around RMB200 million (US$32 million),” said Alain Crozier, chairman and CEO of Microsoft Greater China Region. “This is important, but donations are not going to make a difference in lives. What will make a difference is the ecosystem of non-profits, Microsoft technologies, partners and employees coming together to find solutions that will help people.”
Adjacent Technologies has developed a pair of smart glasses which allow the visually impaired to know what is in front of them. The solution features an inbuilt camera and wi-fi connectivity, allowing users to take a photo of what’s in front of them, this photo is then sent to servers that use Microsoft’s cognitive services where it is converted into audio and sent the user’s mobile phone.
“We have to provide as much detail as possible since the wearers are in darkness,” said Chen Jie, co-founder of Beijing Adjacent Technologies. “The system applies facial recognition and environmental recognition to create a succinct description. It currently works in English, but Microsoft’s translation AI now provides real time descriptions in Chinese. Users can personalise the system by training it with photos of friends, family and colleagues so that the glasses can identify them by name.”
The Bus Listening app developed by Guangzhou Huatu Information Technology was another solution presented at the event makes using public transport easier for the visually impaired. Huatu uses Microsoft Azure to build a city-sized internet of things (IoT) solution that informs users of bus arrival times.
After letting the app know their selected bus route and destination, users will receive a notification when their bus is 80 meters away and when the bus arrives, a voice prompter will guide them to the bus door. Once onboard, the IoT solution generates a notification when the user is one stop away from the destination and once again just as the bus arrives at the stop.
Another non-profit, Baby Come Home, has recently added a new tool in its efforts to reunite families with lost children. The Photo Missing Children (PhotoMC) application, based on Microsoft’s cognitive services, scans facial images from different databases of missing persons and determines the likelihood of two faces belonging to the same person.
“With Baby Come Home, like all non-profits that presented their AI-powered solutions today, it’s more than just a partnership,” said Crozier. “The engineering teams demonstrated fantastic empathy when working with the partners and this led to solutions that really made some miracles.”