Seeing AI

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Useful technology – Seeing AI app

Seeing AI is an app created by Microsoft specifically for Apple iOS devices.

Seeing AI is a free app that can describe the world around you. The app utilises the power of AI (Artificial Intelligence) to describe nearby people, text and objects. The app can also help identify products using a bar code scanner.

Available in 70 countries, the app supports English, Spanish, German, French, Dutch, Japanese languages.

The app is supported on iPhone 5C, 5S and later models, but performs best iPhone 6S, SE and later models.

Video tutorials

The following tutorial videos have been produced by Microsoft and are hosted on YouTube:

How to use Seeing AI

  1. Download the app from your iPhone App Store: iOS – App Store
  2. Select to open the app – locate Seeing AI  Logo of the Seeing AI app
  3. Review the terms and conditions – if you chose to agree, select ‘I Agree’ at the bottom of the page.
  4. The app will ask to use your camera and photos. For the app to work correctly you need to select OK to grant permissions these permissions to the app.
  5. The next screen will be a tutorial on how to use the app.
  6. Once you have completed the tutorial, the app will start on short text channel. 

Layout of the screen


Left – menu button
Right – help! 


This is the camera viewfinder. In some channels you will be required to take a picture, for example when using the ‘Person’ or ‘Scene’ channels, and to do this you select the button on the left-hand side. If you are using Voiceover double tap this area.


This is the ‘Channel’ area.  The various features are called channels.  


If you wish to reorder the channels this can be done in settings -
Press Menu then Settings.

Short Text

This is a basic OCR (Optical Character Recognition) system, which means it will read any text visible.


This channel continues to use OCR (Optical Character Recognition)
  • Place a letter or typed document on a flat surface.
  • Raise the phone above it. It needs to see all the edges to know it’s not missing anything. If you are using Voiceover the app will tell you, if the document is not completely in view, for example if the left edge is not clearly visible it will say:  “left edge not visible” 
  • Simply lift the phone a little higher or move it slightly. When it can see all the edges it will take a photograph. 
  • A text window will then appear, displaying what it has transcribed from your document, if using Voiceover, it will then be read aloud.
  • From this screen you can share or save the text.


This recognises bar codes to distinguish products. It provides an audible sound to help you locate a barcode. In some cases, it may be easier to use the short text channel to read a package.  


The person channel uses facial recognition technologies to identify people’s ages and emotions with a basic description. The feature can remember people’s faces too.
  • A button appears in the central section of the screen above the channel selector, which enables you to bring up a list of all the people it knows. To add someone into this list select the ‘+’ button to do this.
  • To add a new person it needs to take three photos. 
  • It helps to adjust the angle slightly each time so the app can recognise the person from more angles.


This recognises different bank notes in many currencies.


Scene uses AI (Artificial intelligence) to try and describe the view in front of you. 


Colour channel will identify colours. This is done by centre of the picture with a target. In certain lights the app will use your phone’s camera to illuminate the scene, which may change the colour of items.


This channel will recognise and transcribe handwritten text.


A simple light meter that uses audio sound to help identify the amount of light visible by your device’s camera.

Things to keep in mind

  • To use some parts of this service, you will require an active internet connection, whether that be through Wi-Fi or a mobile data connection.
  • For text reading, the quality of the printed text is important if the paper or ink is diminished it may struggle to identify the text correctly.
  • The app performs better on newer Apple iOS devices. For example, iPhone 6s and above
  • This app is also usable on an iPad
  • Currency – the app cannot distinguish coins
  • Person mode – can be incorrect when assessing ages of people.
  • Product – the database does not cover all products
  • This app is using Artificial Intelligence – be mindful this will not be 100% accurate all the time.
  • To get the most from this app – you may need to utilise Voiceover to read out text.

Type of assistance Seeing AI is useful for

Caring for your guide dog

  • Reading written notes in vet books
  • Assisting with medication for your dog
  • Reading letters or documents from Guide Dogs

Day to day uses

  • Reading letters
  • Reading documents
  • Reading prescriptions
  • Reading receipts
  • Reading birthday or greetings cards
  • Locating colour of clothing
  • Locating colour of make-up
  • Recognising family or friends
  • Identifing products from your cupboard
  • Telling similar products apart – for example shampoo and shower gel
  • Reading signs 

Get in touch

For support with any of these items you can contact our Technology Services team