On Wednesday, Microsoft unveiled Seeing AI, an iOS app that uses the smartphone camera to tell visually impaired users what’s in front of them, according to CNBC.
The technology — which uses computer vision to identify the objects in a user’s environment to provide context on their surroundings — points to Microsoft’s AI clout. It also helps to position the firm as a front-runner in the rapidly growing mobile health ecosystem.
Seeing AI can read text from signs and documents aloud; describe places, people, and their emotions; recognize currency values; identify household products by scanning barcodes; and even provide instructions to users if the object they want described is not in-frame.
Microsoft is ramping up its efforts to integrate AI into all facets of its users’ lives as it jockeys against other tech titans in the AI landscape:
- Microsoft’s presence in the AI ecosystem distinguishes it from competitors. Microsoft is competing against a variety of tech giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple that are all looking to set the tone in the AI space. Dating back to the early 1990s with the creation of Microsoft’s research labs, the company has pioneered advancements aimed at developing solutions in the realms of computer vision, speech recognition, natural-language processing, and machine learning.
- Microsoft is expanding its AI efforts into a whole range of its products. Last year, the company established the Microsoft AI and Research Group, which unites the company’s research organization with over 5,000 computer scientists and engineers dedicated to its AI product developments. Since then, Microsoft has accelerated the delivery of new capabilities that integrate AI, like its flagship Office 365 suite, its digital assistant Cortana, and chatbots on Skype.
- Microsoft is leveraging its AI capabilities to create optimal healthcare solutions. Along with the release of the Seeing AI app, Microsoft has developed quite a few recent health-focused initiatives and solutions. Healthcare NExT is Microsoft’s recent initiative focused on healthcare transformation that leverages existing AI work and Azure cloud services.
Embracing third-party platforms is a strategic play by Microsoft to stay relevant in the mobile ecosystem, which the company has struggled with. On Tuesday, the company ceased support for its Windows Phone 8.1 operating system. However, relying on third-party platforms can present challenges for Microsoft, since platforms like Apple and Google are capable of developing their own AI solutions and applications, and many consumers hold strong interest in staying within the same ecosystem.
To receive stories like this one directly to your inbox every morning, sign up for the Apps and Platforms Briefing newsletter. Click here to learn more about how you can gain risk-free access today.