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Phone apps help blind 'see'

Locate and identify things, landmarks, signs...

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Two innovative mobile phone applications are in development that, it’s claimed, will help the blind and visually impaired more easily identify everyday objects and independently navigate.

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SeeScan’s a text-to-speech app designed by US firm iVisit which uses a mobile phone’s camera to recognise everyday objects. When the camera’s pointed towards something the app recognises, a description’s read out to the user.

A database helps the software identify various objects. The database can be trained, iVisit claimed. Presumably a sighted person’s help is required here.

The firm’s also pitching SeeScan as an app for reading out labels from medicine bottles.

Its second app, SeeStar, is a location awareness tool designed to act like a pair of eyes for the user.

SeeStar connects to a sighted remote assistant who describes the visually impaired person’s surroundings according the image the phone’s camera is picking up. GPS data and Google Maps also helps the assistant define the person’s exact location.

But SeeStar isn’t totally dependent on the sighted remote user, because it’s also able to automatically recognise landmarks and signs.

An iVisit spokesperson told Register Hardware that it currently has both applications running on Windows Mobile 5 and higher handsets, each equipped with touchscreens and 3G.

SeeStar and SeeScan should be available this summer, with support for non-Windows Mobile devices expect to follow by the end of 2009. ®

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