Google’s big I/O conference back in May had a theme running through almost all the cool innovations the company was cooking up. AI was the buzzword and Google was talking about all sorts of ways its AI was going to make the world a better place. From simple things like improved predictive text in Gmail to grander schemes like assisting people with reduced mobility, Google said its AI was going to do it all.
One of the grander schemes Google mentioned was Lookout, an app Google was working on with visually impaired people in mind. Now, in March 2019 Google has finally started rolling out the Lookout app. If you’re a Pixel owner in the U.S., you can download it right now.
Lookout can recognize objects and say what they are
The Lookout app is very cool for a number of reasons, not least because it turns the smartphone into a wearable device. Google suggests users wear their phone around their neck in a lanyard or in a chest pocket, so that it can have an unobstructed view of all that is going on in the user’s eye line. This is because, “Lookout helps those who are blind or have low vision identify information about their surroundings. It draws upon similar underlying technology as Google Lens, which lets you search and take action on the objects around you, simply by pointing your phone.” Just like Lens searches the internet based on what it sees, Lookout will provide audible cues to the user based on what it sees.
In the blog post announcing Lookout’s release, Google went on to explain that it has been designed to help visually impaired users in situations when they might normally have to ask for help. Things like, “learning about a new space for the first time, reading text and documents, and completing daily routines such as cooking, cleaning and shopping.” All users have to do is open the Lookout app and point in the right direction and the app will then work at recognizing what is in the scene before the user and reporting it back to them. Lookout can also read out any text it sees thanks to its Quick Read mode.
The search giant says that it has taken so long for Lookout to come to market as it has been honing and testing the app ever since it was first announced. Google also realizes that Lookout is still far from perfect and is asking users to help the app learn quicker. Early users of the Lookout app can provide vital feedback to Google via its Disability Support Team.
If you are a Pixel owner in the U.S., you can download Google Lookout now. now. For everybody else, we’ll just have to wait and see when the app will receive a wider roll-out. Google has said that it hopes to bring Lookout to more devices, countries, and platforms but for now, is offering no information about when that will happen.