Microsoft has released an app that uses a smartphone camera to narrate the world it sees for use by the blind and visually impaired.
The free app, Seeing AI, can identify people, facial expressions, currency, describe a scene and read pieces of text. It is available on theApp Store for iPhone.
When reading text, Seeing AI can tell users if they have not moved a document under the camera and guide them. It can also scan bar codes and provide information about products.
Started as a research project for Microsoft, Seeing AI still has some more experimental settings. Users can turn on these features, one of which can be used to describe the scene around the user.
It can also describe images in other apps, such as identifying images on Twitter. The app is currently available in the US, Canada, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, but will be coming to more countries.
The project was demonstrated in March last year by Microsoft software engineer Saqib Shaikh.
Shaikh, who lost his sight at the age of seven, said last year: "I teamed up with like minded engineers to make an app which lets you know who and what is around you ... years ago this was science fiction. I never thought it would be something you can actually do, but artificial intelligence is improving at an ever faster rate and I am excited to see where this can go."
Although many elements of smartphones remain inaccessible for the blind, iPhone and Android devices already have some aids for the visually impaired, such as voice assistants or Apple's VoiceOver screen reader that can tell users what is on the screen and guide them into pressing the correct buttons.
Some other apps for the blind have come with a price tag, such as Aiploywhich was launched in 2015 for a monthly subscription.