It’s not often that I’m “giggly” about an iOS application – in fact, it’s rare to never. It’s even more infrequent that I have the privilege to share an application that’s also *FREE* and functional for the blindness community. I don’t know what rock I’ve been living under the past couple of days, but I somehow missed this little gem. VizWiz works to leverage the growing need for real-time access within the blindness community, with the rapidly expanding, “human cloud” through mobile connectivity and social networks. I’ve spent the afternoon working with this app and I have to say – ridiculously impressive. Want to hear more?
VizWiz aims to provide nearly real-time answers to assist the blindness community. Provided through the efforts of the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Research Group of the University of Rochester, this application makes use of several different methods to help identify real world surroundings and objects for those without eyesight. The process is quite simple – the user snaps a photo with their mobile device (currently the iPhone and iPod Touch), they are then prompted to “record” an audio question to be attached with their photo, and then make the decision of which means they would like to use for collecting answers and identification. Roch HCI wants to harness, what they call, the “human cloud” in order to solve problems for the blindness community. Users are able to search for results using the “IQ Engine”, which is basically a crowd-sourced database of images, as well as social networks. The “secret ingredient” which makes VizWiz stand out from the crowd is its ability to get results from a living, breathing and fully sighted human on the other end. Let me tell you – it’s an incredible experience to have someone respond to a question in under 45 seconds or so. Life is too fast-paced to rely on a pair of eyes – but, this is a solid, very capable solution that I’ve been excited to put through its paces today.
I want to share a few additional scenarios that I tested VizWiz with this afternoon. The application has impeccable response time, even on 3G connectivity away from my home. I’ve heard reports that VizWiz functions quite successfully on the iPhone 3GS, as well, which is great to hear.
If you need any more proof that this application is not only stellar, but a huge asset to the blindness community, you need to download it from the App Store and put it to the test. It’s free – so you have no excuse not to give it a shot. I don’t know how long VizWiz will stay operational. I do know that with creative solutions like this, the blindness community will continue to forge greater independence and push technology to a fuller potential. The idea of harnessing the “human cloud” strikes home a bit and is an idea far outside “the box” – while simple in its “design”.
What do you think? Have you tried VizWiz, and if so, what were your results? Do you have any thoughts on Roch HCI’s idea of “harnessing the human cloud”? What potential could this notion unlock for our community? Your response is invaluable – so take a moment to share your thoughts