Google has announced it is developing an app it hopes will help blind and visually impaired people become more independent.
The web giant said it is working on an Android app called Lookout, which gives users auditory cues as they encounter objects, text and people around them.
It is designed to be used on a lanyard around your neck, or in your shirt pocket, with the camera pointing away from your body. After opening the app, and selecting a mode, Lookout processes items of importance in your environment and shares information it believes to be relevant, such as text from a recipe book, or the location of a toilet, an exit sign, a chair or a person nearby. Lookout delivers spoken notifications and is designed to be used with minimal interaction, allowing people to stay engaged with their activity.
Lookout is the latest in a string of smartphone apps that have in recent years replaced expensive technologies. It follows in the footsteps of Microsoft's successful Seeing AI app, which is currently only available on Apple devices.
Lookout operates in four modes based on the user's current activity: Home, Work & Play, Scan and Experimental. After selecting a mode, the user will be told about objects the app senses around them, such as the location of a sofa at home.
The app's Scan feature can also read text, such as a recipe from a cookbook, while its Experimental mode allows users to try out features which are in development.
The app doesn't require an internet connection to operate and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to learn what people are interested in hearing about.
It is expected to be available in the Google Play Store later this year.