Amazon is introducing a brand new characteristic to its Alexa Present machine designed to assist blind and different low-vision prospects establish frequent family pantry objects by holding them up in entrance of Alexa’s digital camera and asking what it’s. The characteristic makes use of a mix of laptop imaginative and prescient and machine studying strategies to be able to acknowledge the objects the Echo Present sees.
The Echo Present is the model of the Alexa-powered sensible speaker that tends to take a seat in prospects’ kitchens as a result of it helps them with different kitchen duties, like setting timers, watching recipe movies, or having fun with a bit music or TV when you prepare dinner.
However for blind customers, the Present will now have a brand new responsibility: serving to them higher establish these family pantry objects which are exhausting to tell apart by contact — like cans, boxed meals, or spices, for instance.
To make use of the characteristic, prospects can simply say issues like “Alexa, what am I holding?” or “Alexa, what’s in my hand?” Alexa may even give verbal and audio cues to assist the purchasers place the merchandise in entrance of the machine’s digital camera.
Amazon says the characteristic was developed in collaboration with blind Amazon workers, together with its principal accessibility engineer Josh Miele, who gathered suggestions from each blind and low-vision prospects as a part of the event course of. The corporate additionally labored with the Vista Heart for the Blind in Santa Cruz on early analysis, product growth, and testing.
“We heard that product identification is usually a problem and one thing prospects needed Alexa’s assist with,” defined Sarah Caplener, head of Amazon’s Alexa for Everybody staff. “Whether or not a buyer is sorting via a bag of groceries, or attempting to find out what merchandise was not noted on the counter, we wish to make these moments easier by serving to establish this stuff and giving prospects the data they want in that second,” she mentioned.
Sensible house units and clever voice assistants like Alexa have made life simpler for disabled people, because it permits them to do issues like alter the thermostats and lights, lock the doorways, increase the blinds, and extra. With “Present and Inform,” Amazon hopes to succeed in the broad market of blind and low-vision prospects, as effectively. In keeping with the World Well being Group, there are an estimated 1.three billion with some form of imaginative and prescient impairment, Amazon says.
That being mentioned, Echo units aren’t globally out there — and even when they’re provided in a selected nation, the machine might not help the native language. Plus, the characteristic itself is U.S.-only at launch.
Amazon isn’t alone in making accessibility a promoting level for its sensible audio system and screens. At Google’s I/O developer convention this 12 months, it launched a spread of accessibility tasks, together with Dwell Caption which transcribes real-time audio; Dwell Relay for serving to the deaf make cellphone calls; Challenge Diva, for serving to those that don’t converse use sensible assistants; and Challenge Euphonia that helps make voice recognition work for these with speech impairments.
Present and Inform is offered now to Alexa customers within the U.S. on first and second-generation Echo Present units.