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Facing Emotions app by Huawei aims to help blind people understand facial expressions

January 7, 2019

Understanding the facial expression of person you are talking with on the phone is hard. It is even harder for someone who is blind or low vision, even in face-to-face conversation. A need that a new app that tech giant Huawei is trying to meet with a new app called Facing Emotions.

The app, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) will help a blind user gauge the other person's expressions during a conversation.

The app has been created such that it can identify the prime human emotions like happiness, anger, fear, sadness, irritation, surprise and contempt. It can be used Huawei's Mate 20 Pro smartphone.

We decided to find out how useful such an app will really be. Law student Maitreya Shah says understanding facial expressions is important and there are apps like smile detectors and emotional recognisers in the market that aim to meet this need. But they have some limitations, says Shah.

For example, if you are talking at a meeting, you cannot obviously switch on the app and listen to the other person's facial expression. It can sound awkward. Similarly, supposed you are walking on the road and you meet a friend. Will any person really bother taking out their phone and switching it on to know what the other's persons expressions are? It does not happen that way. I guess watches can be more helpful that way because one wears it most of the time, not phones. But I really appreciate the efforts. - Maitreya Shah, LAw student & disability rights activist

How it works

Facing Emotions app works in this way.The camera faces the person the blind or low vision user is in conversation with, and pays attention to the eyes, nose, mouth and eyebrows of the person. The app was created in collaboration with the Polish Blind Association, and apparently visually impaired were closely involved in the development. The sounds for the app were created by well-known blind music composer Tomasz Bilecki.

There are some who are enthusiastic about checking out Facing Emotions as they feel it will enhance one on one interactions.

"It is great that Huawei has brought out such a mobile app. I believe now we can read another person's face easily when having a conversation. We can also understand their emotions. It is indeed a great technology", says Shekhar Naik, former captain of the Indian blind cricket team.

Clearly, there are mixed reactions and time will tell whether it will click in the Indian market. The positive takeaway is that major tech giants are actively looking into making accessible technologies for people with disabilities. All good moves that will help empower the community.

ALSO READ: Tech World brings useful resources for visually impaired people on one platform



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