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NUS researchers launch AiSee to help the visually impaired “see” with the help of AI

By Ken Wong - on 5 Feb 2024, 5:20pm

NUS researchers launch AiSee to help the visually impaired “see” with the help of AI

The simple task of grocery shopping can be a challenge for the visually impaired when identifying grocery items can be daunting.

To aid them with this and other endeavours, a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore’s School of Computing (NUS Computing) introduced AiSee, an affordable wearable assistive device that helps people with visual impairment ‘see’ objects around them with the help of AI based on Chat GPT-4. Compared to most wearable assistive devices which require smartphone pairing, AiSee operates as a self-contained system that can function independently without the need for any additional devices.

First developed in 2018 and progressively upgraded over five years, AiSee incorporates a bone-conduction headphone to avoid any stigmatisation. Bone conduction technology enables sound transmission through the bones of the skull. This ensures that individuals with visual impairment can effectively receive auditory information while still having access to external sounds, such as conversations or traffic noise. According to the team, rather than develop their own AI, they have been experimenting with the wearable form factor, and using different AI models (Google Vision API, GPT3 etc), prompts, and audio feedback since 2019. 

The user simply needs to hold an object and activate the built-in camera to capture an image of the object. AiSee utilises cloud-based AI algorithms to process and analyse the captured images to identify the object. It will also provide more information when queried by the user using advanced text-to-speech and speech-to-text recognition.

Lead researcher of Project AiSee Associate Professor Suranga Nanayakkara from the Department of Information Systems and Analytics at NUS Computing, and his team are currently in discussions with SG Enable in Singapore to conduct further user testing with persons with visual impairment to help refine and improve AiSee’s features and performance. The team also received a grant of S$150,000 from B.P. De Silva Holdings Pte Ltd to support the project.

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