As part of Microsoft’s philanthropic mission, it launched AI for Accessibility in 2018 which is a $25 million project that would last for 5 years. The program determines which organizations are eligible for a grant that supports their mission towards bridging the gap between the rapidly evolving technology and people with disabilities closer.
AI for Accessibility is second to and modeled after Microsoft’s AI for Earth, which provides training and resources to organizations tackling problems relating to climate, water, agriculture, and biodiversity through technology. Both of which are under the AI for Good project.
Microsoft says that the AI for Accessibility program provides businesses, individuals, and organizations access to their advanced Microsoft Azure cloud computing resources. Specifically, projects that aim to develop on Microsoft’s Cognitive Services and Machine Learning technology for accessible and intelligent AI solutions in its three main areas of focus: Employment, Daily Life, and Communication and Connection.
Last year, a total of nine organizations and projects were given grants including Zyrobotics, iTherapy’s InnerVoice, Present Pal, Equadex’s Helpicto, Abilisense, Timlogo, the University of Iowa, the Indian Institute of Science, and the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation.
The Washington-born company announces grants to different organizations all throughout the year. Today, as part of celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Microsoft announced 7 new efforts to be part of the AI for Accessibility program.
New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID) 2018 WinnersOur Ability is an online based platform founded by John Robinson, who was born without complete limbs. As a person with a disability himself, he knows how hard it is for people like him to seek out job opportunities. He says that for people like him, unemployment rates are twice as high compared to people without disabilities.
Although Robinson still notes that there still are job opportunities for people with disabilities, they’re just hard to find. Through intuitive chatbots and AI tech, Our Ability is able to put businesses and employment seekers in one platform. In turn, businesses and organizations looking to hire people with disabilities can actually find the ones who are willing and ready to be part of the workforce.
Another startup, Pison Technology from Boston, Massachusetts is developing a wrist-wearable technology that’s meant to be handy, quite literally. Founder Dexter Ang’s idea came when he saw his late mother’s physical abilities deteriorated under the effects of ALS.
The goal is for people to have a fallback option when they’re struggling with making actions on digital platforms due to ALS or because of other neuromuscular disabilities such as MS. The supposedly easy thing as a trackpad or a mouse is failing them; technology shouldn’t fail its user, technology needs to adapt.
Ideally, the goal of the wrist-wearable device from Pison is to be able to make actions in digital platforms by sensing a person’s microgestures and for AI technology to make desired actions for them.
Another startup on this list is Voiceitt from Israel, which is similar to Google’s Project Euphonia that was announced during this year’s Google I/O. Both of which aims to use AI technology to comprehend a person’s voice and translate it for others to understand in real-time scenarios.
Particularly, people who suffer strokes, for example, can significantly affect speech that often becomes hard to understand for people around them. It’s often hard to engage in a conversation when you’re hardly understood and can affect morale. With Voiceitt, it can be a live translator that could actually push people suffering from this disability to speak and to be understood, improving the overall quality of life.
Here are other projects that were also given grants as described by Google:
- University of Sydney (Australia) researchers are developing a wearable sensory warning system to help the 75 million people living with epilepsy better predict and manage seizures to live more independently.
- Birmingham City University (United Kingdom) researchers are developing a system that enables people with limited mobility to control digital platforms using voice commands and the movement of their eyes.
- Massachusetts Eye and Ear (Boston, MA) researchers are working on a vision assistance mobile app that offers enhanced location and navigation services for people who are blind or have low vision.
- University of California Berkley (Berkley, CA) researchers are creating a mobile app for individuals who are blind or have low-vision to provide captions and audio descriptions of their surroundings.