Those who say living without a phone is difficult may find there are people who really mean it. A new app for blind people, VizWiz, may just end up changing their lives for the better.
There has been some development of assistive technologies such as speech-recognition in recent times. VizWiz takes these technologies to the next level by making use of a crowd cloud to help blind people.
The app believes that technology is fragile most of the time because of rapidly changing reality. OCR (optical character recognition) scanners find it difficult to read older and handwritten documents, and speech-recognition software programs do not understand accents well enough. VizWiz has tackled the problem differently. It depends on real human users to help blind people.
VizWiz is available on iPhone, and is a free application which enables blind users to take the help of remotely situated, visually able people to tackle their visual problems, such as telling them the colour of a T-shirt.
So, how does it work?
Blind users take a picture from their iPhone, speak a question into it and upload it to the app.
VizWiz volunteers examine the photo and send their answers back. In the trials conducted by the app developer, blind users found the app useful and it took them about 27 seconds on an average to get their answers from the human cloud. The fact that a human cloud would be answering visual questions has potential because even when the technology fails, human volunteers may still be able to pitch in with their solutions.