LookTel, an app for the blind

Now here’s a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. LookTel is an object identifier – you point it at something and it tells you what it is. You can teach it to recognize new objects and by aiming it at a product, the program can tell what it is using real speech and when you need to ID something on the fly, you can stick on an image sticker and read that sticker. It’s more or less a barcode and QR scanner with some image recognition thrown in, but it really could be a boon to those with failing – or failed – eyesight.

The system needs a little more computing power than is available in the average smartphone so you need a local PC to help ID some things. The machine learning works like this:

Users running the LookTel Mobile software, which runs on compatible Windows Mobile Smartphones, use the cell phone’s touch-screen interface to navigate and the cell phone’s camera to recognize objects. The LookTel Mobile software transmits the live images from the cell phone to a PC running LookTel BaseStation, our sophisticated recognition software. When the PC receives a request to look up an image, it sorts through the image library to find the matching image stored in the database. It then sends back the information that permits the Smartphone to speak the description of the item to you.

LookTel “learns” to recognize new items by storing an image of the item, captured by the Smartphone, and matching it with a tag. The tag can be your own voice or a text tag that is read by the text-to-speech engine, similar to what your home PC can do.

There is also a live-assistant portion that lets human beings tell you what’s going on around you as you point your phone’s camera at the scene. It works with Windows smartphones and MIDs.

There is no current pricing – I have an email into the company – but I looks like a great idea. Considering my eyes will probably eventually go from all this monitor usage, I may need this sooner than later.