Be My Eyes, Be My AI

The visual impaired population is getting more support from AI to help them ‘see’ the world around them. The already very successful human-powered app Be My Eyes (we’ve covered it before) has launched Be My AI, an automated tool that can help in certain circumstances. Using an AI trained to identify everyday objects users can use the camera on their phone to quickly identify objects, of course it isn’t perfect and nor can it fully replace the human aspect of Be My Eyes. One user has written up their experience of the tool which you can read here.

You can use Be My AI 24/7 in all those situations when you want quick visual assistance without necessarily calling a human volunteer. Be My AI is perfect for all those circumstances when you want a quick solution or you don’t feel like talking to another person to get visual assistance. You may be amazed that Be My AI knows more than just what’s in the photo – just ask for more context and discover what it can tell you.

Be My AI also will give deaf-blind users a new way to get information if they use, for example, a braille display. Be My AI’s written responses are user-selectable in 29 languages.

For all of its advantages, though, Be My AI does not and should not replace a white cane, guide dog, or other mobility aid that provides for safe travel.

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More People can Help the Blind: Be My Eyes Now on Android

Be My Eyes is an app designed to help people with low vision to get help from thousands of people around the world. It works by connecting people with vision problems to those with good vision. For example, a blind person might need to know which object is red so they take a picture with their phone and a volunteer using Be My Eyes lets them know. The app has been available on iOS and now Android users can join in on the fun!

The app is free, anonymous, and available 24/7. Anyone can join as a volunteer or end user. There’s no commitment when joining, so for sighted people, this is a great way to make the world better just a few minutes at a time. Its creators report over 270 thousand help sessions, with over 500 thousand sighted users helping 38 thousand blind ones.

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Thanks to David!

Stem Cells Can Reverse Blindness

This looks promising: new research has proven that in some cases it is possible to use stem cells to reverse blindness.

In the study, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers took a small number of stem cells from a patient’s healthy eye, multiplied them in the lab and placed them into the burned eye, where they were able to grow new corneal tissue to replace what had been damaged. Since the stem cells are from their own bodies, the patients do not need to take anti-rejection drugs.

Adult stem cells have been used for decades to cure blood cancers such as leukemia and diseases like sickle cell anemia. But fixing a problem like damaged eyes is a relatively new use. Researchers have been studying cell therapy for a host of other diseases, including diabetes and heart failure, with limited success.

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Technology Can Help Disabled

The UN is pushing for new technologies to help people who need accessibility support. The good news is that this has started to happen. OneWorld South Asia is reporting on the use of ICTs designed for accessibility.

Google recently added more accessibility services to its search engine. Google Labs created Accessible Web Search for the Visually Impaired that returns only sites that are easy to read by screen readers. The search uses the W3C standards, which passes.

“Governments, at the first World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 in Geneva, committed themselves to building a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge.

“The new computer-based information technologies have the potential for opening up a world of new opportunities for persons with disabilities,” said Sarbuland Khan, Executive Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development.”

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