- Developers Seek N500m for Blind People’s App
App developers at the Co-creation Hub in Yaba, Lagos, are seeking funding of about N500m to recreate Aipoly in Nigeria, a smartphone app that helps visually impaired persons identify people and things in their environment.
Should the recreation come through, they told our correspondent that they would be able to download and administer it on smartphones of interested Nigerians from a central system.
Those behind the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said plans had been concluded to meet the two entrepreneurs and Australian engineers who created the app – Alberto Rizzoli and Simon Edwardsson.
“We decided to do this because we realised that more Nigerians are getting blind by the day and except MTN, through its blind foundation project, no other telecommunications firm or smartphone manufacturer has come up with innovations that could help blind Nigerians, other than just making profits. The Nigerian Communications Commission is completely out of it,” said one of the app developers.
He said, “The whole idea is to give blind Nigerians a sense of belonging in the world of global communication that is fast evolving. For the fact that they are blind doesn’t mean they should be excluded from leveraging modern technology with ease and not bothering anyone for assistance.”
According to him, four Nigerians are investing in the project, saying, “We are still seeking more funding because we will need about N500m to make this reality.”
He added, “Two of us would be off to Australia anytime soon to meet with Rizzoli and Simon (Edwardsson) and conclude discussions with them. We drew inspiration from Cobhams Asuquo, the Nigerian musician and producer, who despite being blind for many years, has written and produced many songs for Nigerian artistes. He has led a normal life like every other person, unnoticed.”
Another app developer, who simply called himself Smart, said, “Aipoly was originally created in 2015, and it uses Artificial Intelligence to scan an item’s shape and patterns – after which it relays the information to the user.”
Smart said, “It recognises 1,000 everyday things without an Internet connection, including objects, animals and colours.
“Aipoly Vision is an object and colour recogniser that helps the blind, visually impaired, and colour blind understand their surroundings. Simply point your phone at the object of interest and press any of the recognition buttons at the bottom of the screen to turn on the artificial intelligence.”
He added, “Now that Artificial Intelligence and robotics is gaining so much grounds here, we are definitely going to maximise the opportunities. Aipoly speaks out loud what it sees; and recognises thousands of things in real time.”
Meanwhile, MTN recently said it was building “a robust distribution platform to enable the vast majority of Nigerians to access locally-relevant mobile software applications at a zero data cost.”
A former Chief Marketing Officer at MTN, Mr. Adebayo Adekanmbi, had said the rationale behind the initiative was to get more apps in the hands of Nigerians.
“We have organised all Nigerian-centric apps in a portal and through our special gateway Nigerians can access digital content at no cost. We are making it open for all developers in the country to join MTN by bringing the APK for their apps so that we can put it in the hands of Nigerians,” he said.
Market observers said that Nigerians had indeed succeeded in building problem-solving and life-enhancing mobile apps.
Some of the prevailing concerns being addressed by these apps are traffic, healthcare, education, transportation, e-commerce, tourism and hospitality related issues.
According to them, the huge strides being recorded in mobile applications development is going unnoticed because Nigerians are unable to quickly find relevant apps, without the distractions of applications that are only useful to people in North America and Europe.
“Every Nigerian can now download any app relevant to them free of charge for the next month,” Adekanmbi added.