We all know that technology has changed the way we practice. It has also given us the ability to treat, manage, and help our patients in ways we never could.
Aipoly is a slick tool that can help the visually impaired. I knew nothing about it until I had a chance to speak to one of the co-founders, Alberto Rizzoli.
He was kind enough to answer some questions about it after I had recently heard about from a colleague.
Check it out!
1) What is Aipoly? Where does the name originate? How long has it been in existence?
Aipoly is an artificial intelligence that helps the blind “see” by narrating what it sees through a smartphone camera. It turns your smartphone into a seeing eye that recognises objects in real time.
The company was founded in August 2015 at Singularity University and Aipoly Vision launched in January 2016 at CES2016.
2) How does Aipoly work? How long did it take to develop it?
Aipoly uses something called convolutional neural networks to gain intelligence.
It’s a network of algorithms inspired by the arrangement of cells in the animal visual cortex. Think of it as a simulation of the way we perceive sight, created by humans, and run on silicon chips.
In order to work, this networks needs to be “trained” with many many images. We do that through our partners at Teradeep who have over 16 million images to train these networks. Once Aipoly has seen all these images with a description attached to them, much like a child, it begins to remember what things look like, and learns.
The version of Aipoly available to the public knows about 1,000 terms, or the vocabulary of a 3 year old, but the one we’re developing knows 5,000 which is a 4 and a half year old’s capability. It’s growing!
3) Who can benefit from Aipoly?
There’s three kinds of people who have been benefitting from Aipoly, and we expected only two of them.
The first are the blind and visually impaired, who use the app to build a mental picture of their surroundings. Today they can use Aipoly to navigate more securely in an unfamiliar room, or for example find sockets, switches, doors. With the upcoming version, it will also be able to identify things more accurately, distinguishing certain types of food, drinks, tools, and more.
The colorblind use Aipoly to identify colors, since our app is one of the few free color detectors and also has an easily understandable set of colors rather than technical names used by professionals.
The third segment was not entirely expected, at least not in large volumes. Something like 40% of our users are from Japan… and are using the app to learn English! So as a result we will work on a language-learning version of the app with augmented reality, more suited for sighted users. Sighted users also use the app to train it with the pencil tool, allowing it to learn new items.
4) Where can we tell our patients to find Aipoly?
5) Is there anything as eyecare providers, we can do to help in this mission?
The future of this technology is truly great, it can identify thousands of more things every few months and become faster and lighter, but it requires critical mass. The reason for making it free was so more people would use it and contribute to the teaching using the pencil button, and the machine learning algorithms would make it smarter.
The best thing you can do to help is get people to download the app and possibly review it, it helps A LOT! We have 36,000 downloads but need three times as much to keep supporting the project in the long term.