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Haleon and Microsoft use AI to enhance health product accessibility for blind and partially sighted people

  • On World Sight Day, Haleon and Microsoft are launching joint effort to make health products more accessible for blind and visually impaired consumers, using Artificial Intelligence technology that narrates labels of products.
  • New enhancements in the free Microsoft Seeing AI app will help advance inclusivity and improve accessibility.
  • Across the UK and US, consumers will hear important label information for over 1500 everyday consumer health products such as Sensodyne, Centrum, Aquafresh, ChapStick and Emergen-C. 

13 October 2022: Today, Haleon, a global leader in consumer health, and Microsoft Corp. announced a new collaboration to make everyday health more accessible for people who are blind, have low-vision or have difficulty with reading the labels of products due to low literacy. Together, the companies are expanding functionality in the Microsoft Seeing AI app to provide more detailed labelling information for consumers for over 1500 Haleon products across the UK and US. Seeing AI is a free mobile app, for the visually impaired community, designed to narrate the world around them.

With the launch of Haleon’s ‘Always Read the Label,’ campaign for World Sight Day, people who are blind and those with low vision or low literacy are able to read labels through Seeing AI by scanning the barcode of Haleon products to hear important information such as name, ingredients, and usage instructions. Through the enhanced functionality that Seeing AI offers, Haleon will help empower people to care for their own health independently by listening to the label information that’s narrated through the Seeing AI application.

In the UK, more than 2 million1 people are living with sight loss and 8.5 million2 people have very poor literacy skills. In an independent study3 of visually impaired people commissioned by Haleon, 93% of respondents said they don’t feel health products are accessible enough and almost 1 in 5 have taken the wrong dosage as they couldn’t read the packaging effectively. Haleon, driven by its purpose to deliver better everyday health with humanity, believes that health products should be accessible. The collaboration is the first step in driving health inclusivity for this community.

The Seeing AI app was developed by a team of Microsoft engineers spearheaded by project lead and engineering manager Saqib Shaikh, who lost his sight at the age of seven, and was driven to develop the app by his passion for using technology to improve people’s lives.

Saqib Shaikh, Engineering Manager at Microsoft, commented: “I'm really excited to see the launch of this enhanced product recognition functionality, developed in collaboration with Haleon. Seeing AI's intelligent barcode scanner plays audio cues to help you find the barcode, and now the information displayed for Haleon products is coming straight from the manufacturer, providing richer information including usage instructions and ingredients. This can be invaluable for someone who cannot read the label, leading to greater independence.”

Tamara Rogers, Chief Marketing Officer at Haleon said, “Helping people access vital information on our products is one of our first initiatives as we do our part to make everyday consumer health more inclusive. We hope Microsoft’s Seeing AI capability to narrate labels across Haleon’s products brings greater independence to our consumers. At Haleon, we have set ourselves the goal of helping 50 million people to be more included in opportunities for better everyday health by 2025, by tackling three big barriers that we know put everyday health out of reach for too many of the world’s citizens; Health Literacy, Healthcare Accessibility & Bias and Prejudice.”

The Microsoft Seeing AI app is free to download from the Apple App Store, and will be available on Android in the future. To use Seeing AI on Haleon’s products, the user should hold their phone camera over the existing barcode on the packaging. The app will read out the product name and all text on the packaging. The user can skip ahead or move back to the relevant section they wish to listen to, for example which flavour or how to use the product. The Haleon barcode functionality will launch in the UK and USA first, with plans to expand globally and add additional languages in the future.

 

ENDS

Media relations:

Haleon, Louise Pyman, +44(0)7586495121, Louise.x.pyman@haleon.com

Microsoft, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, rrt@we-worldwide.com

 

About Haleon

Haleon (LSE: HLN) is a global leader in consumer health, with brands trusted by millions of consumers globally. The group employs over 22,000 people across 170 markets, who are united by Haleon’s purpose - to deliver better everyday health with humanity. Haleon’s product portfolio spans five major categories - Oral Health, Pain Relief, Respiratory Health, Digestive Health and Other, and Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements (VMS). Its long-standing brands - such as Sensodyne, Panadol, Voltarol, Theraflu, Otrivine, Poligrip, Corsodyl and Centrum - are built on trusted science, innovation and deep human understanding. For more information, please visit www.haleon.com

 

About the Haleon Health Inclusivity Index

Today’s announcement closely follows the launch of the Health Inclusivity Index, developed by Economist Impact and supported by Haleon. The world-first global study of 40 countries measures how successful countries are in using policy to remove the personal, social, cultural, and political barriers which could otherwise prevent people and communities from achieving good physical and mental health. The number of countries assessed in the study will grow to over 80 over the next two years as part of a new three-year partnership between Haleon and Economist Impact. The report has been commissioned by Haleon as part of its commitment to making better everyday health more achievable, inclusive and sustainable, with the company aiming to create more opportunities for people to be included in everyday health, reaching 50 million people a year by 2025.

 

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

1 NHS reports that in the UK, “more than 2 million people are living with sight loss. Of these, around 340,000 are registered as blind or partially sighted” (data from 2022).
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vision-loss

2 National Literacy Trust reports that 8,503,000 people in the UK can be described as having 'very poor literacy skills.’
- 1 in 6 (16.4% / 7.1 million people) adults in England have very poor literacy skills (data from 2012).
- 1 in 8 (12% / 216,000 people) adults in Wales lack basic literacy skills (data from 2010).
- 1 in 4 (26.7% / 931,000 people) adults in Scotland experience challenges due to their lack of literacy skills (data from 2009).
- 1 in 5 (17.9% / 256,000 people) adults in Northern Ireland have very poor literacy skills (data from 2012).
https://literacytrust.org.uk/parents-and-families/adult-literacy/

3 The independent study of visually impaired people, commissioned by Haleon and executed by Opinion Matters, surveyed 502 visually impaired people in the UK in 2022.