Artificial Intelligence

Aipoly Is An App That Helps The Visually Impaired See

Sight is the main way most of us navigate the world. But for those with visual impairment, there's virtually no way to identify far-off objects or 2D images without enlisting the help of somebody with better sight. Until now. Aipoly is a free app for iOS that describes anything you photograph with your iPhone in a matter of seconds, no humans required.

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A Seeing Eye A.I.

Aipoly isn't the first app designed to help visually impaired people identify their surroundings, but it is the first to do so without relying on input from living, breathing humans. According to developers Marita Cheng and Alberto Rizzoli, that's a big part of the app's appeal. Because it's entirely automated, the algorithm doesn't interfere with a user's sense of independence, and allows for a greater degree of discovery and exploration. The app is free, so the only cost is time: it takes between 5 and 20 seconds, depending on your connection and the complexity of the image, to get an answer back.

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The Answer Is In The Cloud

Here's how it works: A user takes a photo, then sends that image to the cloud to be identified. That's where the future magic kicks in. An algorithm matches up what it sees to images it's already identified, using a process of pattern detection and prediction known as machine learning. It then sends that information back to the phone, which says it out loud. Even cooler, the app can identify objects in relation to each other, so instead of pointing out a "man" and a "bicycle," it can put them together and say "man riding a bicycle."

Related: What Is "The Cloud," Exactly?

Getting Better All The Time

No system is perfect, and Aipoly is no different. Some users report it has a difficult time telling men and women apart, and it isn't especially good at identifying facial expressions either. But the beauty of a machine-learning algorithm is that it literally learns—the more people use it, the better it gets. Until then, Rizzoli and Cheng have Aipoly erring on the side of caution—it probably won't say you're angry unless there's steam literally pouring out of your ears.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Exoscale computers would be capable of a quintillion calculations per second. 00:55

  2. People tend to think that even the simplest chatbots exhibit insight and empathy. 01:39

  3. To pass the Turing test, a piece of AI must convince someone that it is human. 02:29

Written by Curiosity Staff March 10, 2017

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