July 25, 2017

VizWhiz–Take a Picture, Speak a Question, and Get an Answer

Question: What color is this pillow? First Answer: Can't tell. Second Answer: Multiple shades of soft green, blue and gold.If ever a wiz there was, the VizWhiz is.

VizWiz is an iPhone app that allows blind users to receive quick answers to questions about their surroundings. VizWiz combines automatic image processing, anonymous web workers, and members of the user’s social network in order to collect fast and accurate answers to their questions. In their words–Take a Picture, Speak a Question, and Get an Answer.

VizWiz Social was developed by the Human Computer Interaction group at the University of Rochester and is available as a free iPhone app. It allows blind users to receive quick answers to questions about their surroundings. A user takes a picture and records a question on their mobile phone, then sends their question to anonymous workers, object recognition software, Twitter, or an email contact. Once an answer is received from any of those services, it is sent back to the users’ phone. Each answering service provides a unique benefit, and would be appropriate for different types of questions.

On an old episode of the Blind Kiss podcast (still, by far our favorite podcast of all time), Damon Rose declared that his life would be much simpler if he just knew what color things were when trying to describe them. He related trying to get his father to bring him a bottle of shampoo from another room. He went through every permutation of the size and shape of the bottle until, finally, after several mistaken attempts, his father brought the correct bottle, saying, “There you go. It’s the red one.” Rose was quite exasperated by how much time and vexation could have been spared if he could have just said, “Bring me the red one.” Unfortunately, Viz Whiz probably couldn’t have helped him much in that moment, because he was actually in the shower, but now he can find out the color of his favorite shampoos for any such future situations.

VizWhiz logoYou can read a lot more about VizWiz and other ways accessible smart phones have made life better for all of us in an excellent article written by Damon Rose at BBC News-Technology. How have smart phones changed your life? Only for the better we hope. Please leave a comment and let us know about your smart phone adventures and discoveries.

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