During Microsoft’s Build Conference 2016, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, presented Saqib Sheikh by saying, “For me, it’s such a privilege to have the chance to share the stage with Saqib. Saqib took his passion, his empathy and he is going to change the world.”
When he was seven years old, Saqib lost his sight and joined a visually impaired school. There, he learned how to use talking computers. Chasing his passion for programming, Saqib graduated from the University of Essex in England with a Bachelor degree with honors in computer science. Afterwards, he earned a Master’s degree in evolutionary and adaptive systems from the University of Sussex. After working at HP Labs and Vodafone, he now works as a software engineer at Microsoft in the “Seeing AI” project. In a “Seeing AI” promo video, Saqib recounts with a smile and a cheerful voice: “One of the things I’ve always dreamt of since I was at university was this idea of something that could just tell you at any moment what’s going on around you.” Having realized his dream, he demonstrates the idea by tapping his sunglasses to take a picture, and to the surprise of everyone present, the Seeing AI glasses describe the picture: “I think it’s a man jumping through the air, doing a trick on a skateboard.”
Moreover, Seeing AI reads printed text and responds to specific requests like reading menu headings. However, its feature of analyzing people’s facial features to interpret their emotions, gender, and age is fascinating. Visually impaired people can use it as a cell phone app or via smart glasses.
In the video, Saqib walks independently using his white cane to meet a veiled lady, while taking pictures of the surroundings.The glasses tell him what is happening around him in the park. He concludes by saying, “For me, it’s about taking that far-off dream and building it, one step at a time. And I think this is just the beginning.”