When one thinks of an app, what usually pops into mind is a fun application that you can use to edit your photos, shop or do some online banking. Useful but something you could also live without. Then once in a while, an app that can change a person’s life for the better is introduced.
The man behind the idea is 27-year-old app developer and computer graduate Michael Fung Kwong-Chiu. According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), it was in 2016 when Fung and his team decided to set up their own business to develop mobile apps for those with special needs. Lo, one of the many who has benefited from the free application, told SCMP, “This mobile app gives me more opportunities.”
Assistive Technology In A Mobile App
iSEE Mobile is a new mobile deep learning based app developed in Hong Kong. It allows smartphone users with visual limitation to be able to accurately distinguish between a banknote and other denominations in a matter of seconds. Easy to use, all the user has to do is open the app and then point the phone camera at the banknote. The iSEE Mobile reader will then instantly tell the user the denomination with an audio output in Cantonese, which is used by most Hongkongers.
“Besides being used as a tool that can tell currencies apart, it can also be used by people [like Lo] to identify text and colour.”
I remember back in 2015 when the Be My Eye app developed by Hans Jørgen Wiberg from Denmark was announced. It worked by a blind person opening the app and requesting assistance. Then a volunteer helper gets a notification and a live video connection opens up. Assisting the app user, the volunteer helps them with anything from knowing the expiry date on the milk carton to navigating new surroundings. The idea of someone being a helper via the app makes the iSEE Mobile reader seem like an upgrade from the Be My Eye app which now sounds quite dated.
Besides being used as a tool that can tell currencies apart, it can also be used by people like Lo to identify text and colour. Always driven to help people with disabilities, Fung confided that “I have an uncle who is visually impaired. He has encountered a lot of difficulties in life.” Adding, “We thought blind people needed more support for using mobile phones and therefore we focused on this area first.”
Fung is one of the nominees for the SCMP’s Spirit of Hong Kong Awards this year, in the Innovating for Good category, which honours people behind breakthrough technologies or innovations for the good of society. Admitting that the iSEE Mobile app still has room for improvement, Fung said that in the future he would like to add functions that could include distinguishing between everyday food items.
At 70 percent accuracy, the app is available for both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating system. It’s worth noting before you download that the currency identifier in English-language is only available with iOS.