Accessibility & Technology

Google’s On The ‘Lookout’

Jul 26, 2019

Google’s On The ‘Lookout’

Not very long ago, news about developing technologies for people visually impaired or blind was not widely reported, if reported at all.  It was also unusual for this kind of news to be attached to the biggest technology companies on the planet. All that has definitely changed!

In 2018, Google announced an Android app in development called ‘Lookout,’ its purpose is to help people with vision loss, identify objects around them and read text.  The news was quickly shared by many news outlets, noteworthy because while Google has been involved in the creation of accessible Android applications for quite some time, they have never really made big pronouncements about it.

According to Patrick Clary, Product Manager for Google’s Central Accessibility Team, Lookout is designed to deliver spoken notifications with minimal interaction.  So it does not create a juggling act for the user, it is recommended that the smartphone be carried in a shirt pocket or on a lanyard, camera facing out.

Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), it utilizes camera vision to help people, who are visually impaired, get information they need without having to ask others for help.  The enhanced access is delivered in these 3 modes:

  • Explore – identifies objects in your environment
  • Shopping – reads barcodes and currency
  • Quick Read – for signs, labels and mail

Lookout is now available on Google Play in US English for Pixel, and supported Samsung and LG devices running Android 5 or higher.  This is a free app, it does not require an internet connection and uses machine learning to identify items of importance and keep delivering the information people are interested in.

If this all sounds somewhat familiar, it’s likely because Microsoft brought us a similar app for iPhone, Seeing AI, in 2017.  One would imagine Seeing AI will become available for Android and Lookout will also be available for iOS.  There’s plenty of room for everyone in this new era of accessibility.  And we love having choices.

Google’s Lookout Announcement Video

Get more information about using Lookout and share your feedback by contacting the Google Accessibility Support Team.

This article has been updated from original version published May 11, 2018.

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About the Author: Dorrie Rush

Dorrie Rush is the Chief Content Officer and Visual Accessibility Expert at Ophthalmic Edge Patients (OE Patients), an online resource, presented by the Association for Macular Diseases, providing practical information and empowering advice for living a full and successful life with vision loss.

She is the former Director of the Grunwald Technology Center and Information Resource Service at Lighthouse International 2001 to 2016. Dorrie is known to have an eccentric view, which is particularly useful in compensating for her central vision loss from Stargardt Disease.

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