As mentioned in last week’s Blind Tech – Part 1 VIDA Insight, we highlighted Apps such as Microsoft’s Seeing AI and how ‘Smart Hubs’ such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home are becoming household items, but do you know how they actually work?
There are 3 particular types of technology that have been kicking around for a few years now but they are quickly becoming techie jargon that we’re all aware of and using in our vocabulary. The technology is also being found and used in loads of everyday items. They are AI, VR and AR. A definition of each of them is:
AI – Artificial Intelligence
AI has been around for many years but didn’t really develop until the 21st century. Basically AI is having the ability to create technology that allows computers and machines to function in an intelligent manner, accomplishing tasks by using algorithms to produce a correct and often accurate response.
You’ll find AI in many electronic devices that we use but some examples of equipment that uses AI are:
‘Smart Hubs’ such as the Amazon Echo use AI. You ask, for example, “Alexa, what is the time?” and the device processes what you have said and then generates the answer “It’s 10:38pm”.
Many websites use AI to understand where you browse, what you read and what you purchase. They then promote, advertise or recommend other websites, articles or items for you to buy based purely on your browsing history.
AI is used massively in the gaming industry, using it to make game characters learn your behaviours and habits and using this information to enhance your gaming experience…
And we have all heard of ‘Siri’, Apple’s digital assistant who is ready to help… “what day does 31 May 2078 fall on?”, “What’s the weather?” and “What am I doing today?” and Siri will answer all of them using AI!
VR – Virtual Reality
Virtual reality has been driven forward in the gaming industry over the past few years, with the major gaming manufacturers releasing VR headsets for use with some of their games. VR is a computer technology that generates realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user's physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment. A person using virtual reality equipment, such as a VR headset, is able to move around the virtual environment and interact with virtual features or items.
I can’t think of any proper ‘VI’ related examples but know that there is talk of producing a VR programme that will enable sighted people to experience having different sight conditions.
It is unlikely that VR will be widely used for people with a vision impairment due to its use of immersing you in to a virtual world through sight. It might work for someone with some useful vision but, for people like me (Dave) with very little useful sight; it’ll be one of those things that we’ll miss out on.
AR – Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality is a relatively new technology that is being used in a wide range of situations and is developing fast. Unlike VR that puts the user in a virtual world; AR keeps the user in the ‘real’ world but uses technology to massively enhance the immediate surroundings. It is hard to really explain, so here are a couple of ways in which you may have seen or used AR.
The App Pokémon Go is a great example of how AR works. It uses GPS technology to locate your position and then, using a camera, puts an overlay on what you’re looking at and adds characters and objects for you to interact with.
For some of you car enthusiasts, some top end cars now have something called a HUD (heads up display). This is a technology that projects images in to your line of sight as if they are floating in front of you near the wind screen. Some HUD’s enable you to change what is displayed using eye movements such as winks whilst all the time not taking your eyes off of the road.
And finally, Google’s self-driving car project and Tesla’s “autopilot” are the most exciting (from a vision impairment point of view) developments using AR technology. Modern cars have park assist, cruise control, brake assist, lane assist and many other gadgets that all use AR and AI so a fully autonomous vehicle isn’t too far away.
We’re always interested to know about other people’s experiences and thoughts. Please share these by commenting…
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