British Microsoft software engineer Saqib Shaikh has developed a unique way to meld artificial intelligence and medicine. Blind since the age of seven, Shaikh wanted to develop software that would assist him, as well as others who are visually impaired, to “see” the world around them.

Shaikh made an app, called “Seeing AI,” that can take pictures of objects and people, then verbalize what it sees in an audio message. Using an algorithm Shaikh developed, the image capturing and analysis software can compare the photo with whatever is in its cloud-based database to determine what the user is looking at. The app can impressively determine a variety of objects and situations, such as:

  • The approximate age of the people interacting with the user
  • The difference between genders
  • The shape of standard objects like a desk, building, computer, etc.
  • The state of facial expressions such as happy, sad, angry, etc.
  • Things in motion, like people walking in a park or throwing a baseball
  • Text on a letter, menu, book, etc. and read back

The app is intended to work on both smartphones as well as PivotHead smart glasses, which have a built-in side button that the user can touch to take a snapshot of the world around them.

This amazing innovation in healthcare and wearable technology was unveiled in a keynote speech at the 2016 Microsoft Build conference. “I love making things that improves people’s lives and one of the things I’ve always dreamt of since I was at university was this idea of something that could tell you at any moment what’s going on around you,” Shaikh said in the keynote presentation. This type of technology has the ability to empower those who are visually impaired leading to a feeling that they can be in control of their lives.

Shaikh and his groundbreaking technology has been featured in the International Business Times and The Huffington Post. Most recently, Shaikh was featured on “Bill Nye Saves the World,” which is a Netflix original series hosted by popular 90’s children’s television host Bill Nye that talks about today’s scientific issues and advances in technology.

Since this is only a research project, Shaikh doesn’t know when, or even if, “Seeing AI,” will be released as a commercial app. Right now, the technology can only recognize about 100,000 different images, but the hope is that this breakthrough in artificial technology can assist the visually impaired to see what they couldn’t see before.

Jon Belsher is a healthcare business executive with over 20 years of experience in leadership and educational roles. Over the course of his career, Jon has proven himself as an innovative, investigative forward-thinker who is passionate about identifying and creating new opportunities for business development and growth, market expansion, and value-added solutions. Jon enjoys studying new advances in healthcare technology.