Why blind people should care about social media and contact photos, facial recognition

Posted July 29, 2017

I have observed in the blind community over the years that many of us seem to care little, if at all, about pictures. In the past, I admit, they didn’t do much for us most of the time, but times are changing.
Starting with TaptapSee,  KNFB Reader, and other less known apps like Live Reader, and currently popular apps like Seeing AI, blind smartphone users are finding more meaningful ways to take and use photos; but now I have another way not yet realized.

Sighted friends have told me that until recently many blind users, maybe unintentionally, often didn’t have any picture on their social media profiles at all. For some, it hasn’t mattered as many of their followers are also blind, but now with apps like Seeing AI and more in the future; the potential of facial recognition will be huge.
If, or more likely when Seeing AI or some similar app can use social profile, or contact photos for facial recognition, just imagine for a moment how awesome that could be. A blind person could wave their phone camera around and find colleagues or friends at a restaurant, at work, or maybe at a conference, or family reunion. It would be somewhat like how a sighted person just looks around and sees someone they haven’t talked to in years and walks over to them to say hi.

At work or a conference, maybe a blind person hears someone presenting and doesn’t know who they are. , With an app like Seeing AI, and a contact list with photos attached in their phone, they could easily find out quickly who was speaking without interrupting anyone else. Add multiple people asking questions after the talk, and the feature may be used several more times. That’s only one of the many ways I or any other blind smartphone user could more independently fit in to an ever more increasingly visual world, and yes this is a form of augmented reality at work.

It’s not just social profile pictures though, it’s more importantly the pictures that Android and iPhones associate with the user’s contact list. This means that some of us, me included, will have to ask people we know to send honest pictures of themselves to us to add to our phone contact list; even just a head shot is good. It’s not a project i could even begin to finish in a day, so let’s start now. the effort we put into building a personal database of pictures of people we know today, will connect our digital tools to our human world more than we could ever imagine tomorrow.

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