Smartphones have vastly improved our ability to identify stuff. From products and people, to money, colours, writing and so much more. In this section find out more about the products and apps that can help you identify your surroundings.
The Camfind object and environment recognition app is aimed at mainstream users but it can easily be used by blind and partially sighted people. It gives descriptive feedback about objects. It also provides internet links to products it identifies.
Historically, there have been specialist products to identify objects, product barcodes or currency. However, the trend is toward using smartphone apps instead. Specialist equipment is typically expensive. Talking colour detectors can be useful in helping with dressing and coordinating clothes as they speak out the colour of whatever they are pointed towards.
Using your smartphone
Apps that identify…
There are apps that can read, detect colour, recognise money and read barcodes. Many of these apps require the user to take a picture for analysis, but the most advanced, such as Microsoft Seeing AI and Envision AI, can continuously scan the environment and give instantaneous feedback.
We have listed examples of multi-functional identification apps below. We recommend browsing your App Store or Play Store to read reviews, download and try. You can also get information from online groups such as AppleVis and Inclusive Android.
- Microsoft Seeing AI. Available for free on iOS.
- Envision AI. Free 14 day trial on iOS, followed by a range of payment options depending on length of subscription. Also available on Android.
- Taptapsee. Available on iOS and Android.
- Eye-D . Available on iOS and Android.
Apps that put you in touch with people to help…
Some technologies make use of helpful humans to assist identification. These apps allow a blind or partially sighted person to take a picture with their phone camera and quickly make contact with a sighted helper through a large network of online volunteers. It is best to avoid sharing sensitive information through such apps.
Examples of these crowd-sourcing identification apps include:
Apps that put you in touch with professional support…
Some companies offer a professional service connecting blind and partially sighted people with other people specially trained to assist in any scenario where sight could be useful. Aira (link at bottom of page) provides this service through both a smartphone app and custom set of smart glasses in other countries. There are several American airports and a growing number of large U.S. based retail outlets where anyone can access Aira support through a smartphone app for free, though they mostly charge a fee for their services. An Aira app-based pilot programme is well underway in the UK.
In recent years, there have been exciting developments in the smart glasses industry and we predict that glasses able to identify things for you are not far away. Smart glasses are currently expensive and can be fiddly to operate, but they are starting to come down in price and have ever improving functionality. Read more about Smart glasses.
AppleVis. The AppleVis website gives information on using Apple products and apps.
Inclusive Android. Online information on using Android devices.
RNIB online shop. Sells talking colour detectors.
Aira. Find out more about this new service.