Alana and RNIB to develop AI-powered technology for blind people

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A joint-project between Heriot-Watt University spin-out Alana and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is working to develop AI software to help blind and partially sighted people.

The AI-powered technology, developed by Alana, is able to keep up human-like conversation and identify users, remembering previous conversations and adapting for a personal experience.

Furthermore, Alana is developing a tool that will identify objects and find further information about a user’s physical environment.

The Alana software can automatically connect to the BeMyEyes app, which links those who have sight loss with fully-sighted volunteers.

The project will initially seek to use the technology in new ways to enhance the existing support offered by RNIB.

The AI-based solution is able to keep up human-like conversation

Through its sight loss advice service, the charity currently offers support over the phone, in eye clinics and digitally.

It also provides information on eye conditions, legal rights, education, technology and employment alongside emotional well-being services and signposting to services and resources offered by local societies.

David Clarke, director of services at RNIB, said: “Using the digital tools we have today, like electronic braille, screen reading software and specialist smartphone apps, it’s never been more possible for people with sight loss to lead full and independent lives.

“As technology continues to develop, it brings a host of wonderful new opportunities.

“The advent of AI is particularly exciting with wide-reaching possibilities, and we are looking forward to working with Alana to see how this new technology can benefit our community.”

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