Microsoft's Seeing AI app can scan the boxes of Advil, Theraflu and more to read out details

Microsoft's Seeing AI app can scan the boxes of Advil, Theraflu and more to read out details
3 min read
11 months ago

The update rolls out today to the company's free iOS app.

Microsoft has been gradually updating its Seeing AI app since its launch in 2017, expanding language support and general functionality over the years. Today, the company is announcing a new feature that would let Seeing AI read out detailed information when users scan the barcodes of products by healthcare company Haleon. The feature is rolling out today for US and UK users on the free app, which is only available on iOS. The company says an Android version will be available "in the future."

In a press release, Microsoft and Haleon said "With today’s launch in honor of World Sight Day, people can now hear packaging information through the Microsoft Seeing AI app by scanning the barcode of Haleon products." Users who are blind, have trouble reading or have low literacy can use the app to scan more than 1,500 Haleon products like Advil, Excedrin, Theraflu, Emergen-C and more, and their device will read out product information, instructions, ingredients "and other crucial details."

The press release also noted that "The Seeing AI collaboration with Microsoft is one of Haleon’s first new initiatives to champion health inclusivity." We may be seeing more from the healthcare company in future, but for now, it's nice to see that people with visual impairments or low literacy can more easily and independently learn about the drugs they are considering or consuming. That is, at least, if they use iOS.

Microsoft might have a way to make Teams a more enticing option for meetings: make AI tackle the dirty work. The company is launching a Teams Premium offering for Microsoft 365 that uses AI to greatly simplify meeting management. Most notably, an "Intelligent Recap" feature automatically creates tasks, chapters and even personalized highlights. Miss a review meeting and you might know which segments to watch when catching up, not to mention what you'll need to work on.

Premium also uses AI to translate captions in real time for 40 spoken languages, so you won't always need to wait for after-the-fact translations to understand what happened. Meeting guides automatically set up the "right" options for a discussion, too.

Other upgrades include virtual appointment support (think doctors and consultants) as well as "high-quality" webinars. Improved protections for sensitive data add confidentiality labels and watermarks, so an unscrupulous coworker can't steal trade secrets just by taking screenshots during presentations.

We've asked Microsoft for details on availability and the 365 plans needed to use Teams Premium. The service already makes the company's strategy clear. It's hoping to counter the likes of Google Meet and Zoom by making Teams indispensable to businesses that don't always have the time or money to create recaps and translations. With that said, Microsoft's rivals aren't standing still — Premium's extras may become necessities before long.

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