Here’s the deal. I’m a congenitally blind person. That means I was born blind, and because my condition is extremely rare (asking for specifics will get you nowhere. You have been warned), I am most likely going to stay that way for many years to come. This state of being has many implications, but for purposes of this discussion, it means I grew up generally disinterested in cameras, and would often become extremely annoyed when asked to pose for a picture. Then, about six years ago, enter the iPhone. At the time,I bought a model just a couple of years older than what had just been released because, as the salesperson explained, the only major difference was the camera. Once I discovered the Appstore, I realized my buyer’s mistake. There were, primitive as they were, apps for color money identification, and even one app that let you take a selfie with voice guidance, since iPhones with front cameras were just being released. So, the camera was a tool, but that’s all it was.
Two years later, enter TapTapSee the first commercially available AI app. You could take a picture of anything, the image would be sent to their server for processing, and a description would come back. The camera was now a fun party game with practical value.
Four years later, the iPhone gains the ability to recognize and alert me to faces in the camera’s view, Facebook roles out out the use of AI to generate automatic alt text for pictures, Twitter gives its users the option of adding descriptions to pictures attached to tweets, and Microsoft releases Seeing AI, a talking camera for the visually impaired. In addition to its ability to read printed and handwritten text, recognize currency, describe scenes and identify colors, this is the first app that is free and has the ability to program faces into the phone, meaning the next time a person appears in the camera’s view or a photo, they get named as being in the photo. The app also lets you browse photos already on your device. Combine this with the artificial intelligence of Google Photos and iOS photos, and the camera, for me, has now been made able to serve it’s original purpose, capturing and storing memories.
So where does that leave me?It leaves me in the challenging position of wanting to learn an art form that is primarily visual, but not entirely, thanks to AI. This is the site where you can watch the experiment happen. It’s powered by WordPress, and that means I can add descriptions to all of my pics. So… Sit back. Enjoy.