iPhone app uses real-life people to answer questions for blind and vision impaired

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Tuesday, 17 May 2011 15:03pm

A new iPhone app enables people who are blind or vision impaired to recruit sighted users to answer questions about an item they have taken a photo of.

The VizWiz app, being developed by Rochester Human Computer Interaction, allows iPhone users to take a photo of an item they have a query about, record their question and send the photo and question to a team of real-life people to answer. These people record the answer, which is then sent back to the user.

An academic paper on VizWiz that outlines the user testing process reports an average response time of 27 seconds using the latest version of VizWiz.

This is different to the other visual search tools available such as Google Goggles. With Google Goggles, a user could take a picture of an object and then have Google return results for the visual search. These results are generated using a sophisticated computer algorithm rather than a real-life person answering the question.

Instead, VizWiz sources real people from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an online marketplace that employs people to do Human Intelligence Tasks - that is, tasks that cannot be performed by a computer.

The team from Rochester Human Computer Interaction then wrote a program called Quik Turkit that ensures there are people available to answer questions before the question has been sent.

At the moment, VizWiz is not available to the general public.

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