Microsoft Receives ACB’s James R. Olsen Distinguished Service Award

ST. LOUIS, June 30, 2018 — The American Council of the Blind presented Anirudh Koul, Senior Data Scientist, and his team at Microsoft with the James R. Olsen Distinguished Award for their Seeing AI application, which has significantly enhanced the independence and quality of life for Americans who are blind or visually impaired. This award is given to individuals or organizations that have made important contributions which have advanced opportunities for the blind community.

“When adding up the cost of the single-use products that Seeing AI replaces, it is easy to see why this mighty little application deserves recognition by the members of the American Council of the Blind,” said Brian Charlson, Director of Technology at the Carroll Center for the Blind. “This program has changed the world of technology for people who are blind or have low vision.”

Seeing AI is a free application that is available in 35 countries and includes features such as:

  • Short Text - Speaks text as soon as it appears in front of the camera.
  • Documents - Provides audio guidance to capture a printed page, and recognizes the text, along with its original formatting.
  • Products - Scans barcodes, using audio beeps to guide you; hear the name, and package information when available. (Works with iPhone 6 and later.)
  • People - Saves people’s faces so you can recognize them, and get an estimate of their age, gender, and emotions.
  • Scenes (early preview) - Hear an overall description of the scene captured.
  • Currency - Recognizes currency notes. (Requires iOS 11)
  • Color - Identifies color.
  • Handwriting - Reads handwritten text such as in greeting cards
  • Light - Generates an audible tone corresponding to the brightness in the surroundings.

Due to its no-cost and multi-use capabilities, the application has been downloaded over 150,000 times and completed over 5 million tasks for users.

The American Council of the Blind is the nation’s leading grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired.  With 70 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people. Together, we make a bright future. Learn more by visiting