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New Apps Provide Virtual Labels for Controls and a Way to Explore Images

Two new free tools for users of iPhones who are visually impaired are now available, following their development by a team currently based at the University of Michigan (U-M_).One reads the labels on control panels; the other identifies features within an image so that they can be explored through touch and audio feedback. The VizLens app is essentially a screen reader that speaks what appears on labels at the user’s direction. With this innovation, users, via their smart phones, can understand and operate everyday objects, such as home appliances and public kiosks. ImageExplorer, the second app, provides input to help people with vision loss better discern the content of images. The app developers incorporated “object and detection models—including Meta’s Detectron2 visual recognition library and Google OCR (optical character recognition) and image analysis models.” With the uploading of an image, ImageExplorer provides a comprehensive analysis of the content of images along with an overview of the visual, including objects detected, relevant tags, and a caption.  Anhong Guio, U-M assistant professor of computer science and engineering, led the development of both apps. VizLens made its “academic debut in 2016,” while ImageExplorer was first discussed in 2022. Guo’s team has relied on feedback from hundreds of user-testing participants who are visually impaired and have experimented with VizLens and ImageExplorer. Some features of ImageExplorer need further detail and different parts of the app “sometimes give conflicting information.” Guo points out that “’The accuracy relies on the models we use, and as they improve, ImageExplorer will improve.’” Despite the shortcomings, results presented in 2022 demonstrated that the app does make it possible for users to “’make more informed judgements of the accuracy of the AI-generated captions.’” Read more from Tech Xplore here about how  “New apps for visually impaired users provide virtual labels for controls and a way to explore images.” To access the apps, download VizLens here and ImageExplorer from the App Store here.