"Image depicts a robot and a human person shaking hands, with the caption: Seeing through robot eyes

Story by: Rachel Pulver

How AI and Assistive Technology has Helped Me be More Independent

I’ve always held out the hope that maybe one day biomedical technology will invent robot eyes to help me see again. We’re not quite there yet, but it turns out there is something that works really well as an alternative. It is called Be My AI and is conveniently located on the Be My Eyes smartphone app .

Be My Eyes is an app that provides free, real-time interactions with volunteers who assist the blind community in visual tasks. These can be locating your way around an airport, reading instructions on frozen food boxes, or asking if your outfit matches.

Be My Eyes to Be My AI

Now, beta testing has started for a new feature called Be My AI. Be My AI describes photos to the user. Once the user snaps a photo through Be My AI, it will describe, in great detail, what it sees. And the best part is, the user can chat with the AI to get further information about the photo. The user will type in a question about the photo or description that was already given, and the AI will answer it.

There is an art piece my parents have had since the beginning of time. All I can see of it is a commotion of colors, but when I used Be My AI it illustrated a word picture for me, so I could really visualize it. Be My AI was also able to read printed mail, identify the layout of a room and what the space could be dedicated toward, tell me what direction the door was, it was able to tell me what movie I was watching, and that is only a fraction of its capabilities that I used.

Technology Fosters Independence

I could see myself using this app for identifying objects I am trying to find around the house. It would be handy during a social gathering at a buffet when I can not see what kind of food is lined up on the table. It could even help identify the colors of my paints and eyeshadows.

On the downside, since Be My AI is in the beta testing phase, the AI does have moments where it can not process the photo or answer questions. The tech isn’t perfect. I also found it odd that the AI, which is made for the blind community, does not speak its description of the photo, so make sure your phone’s speaking accessibility is on. 

Other than some small quibbles, I found this new type of AI to be another tool of independence that people with blindness and visual impairment can use to navigate the world around them. Who knew I could see through AI eyes?