Artificial Intelligence

How AI can transform the assistive technology space

Artificial Intelligence — otherwise known as AI — is a hot topic on many people’s radar. To mimic and even surpass human behaviour with technology is a very appealing prospect to many. With a sudden surge in cloud compute power, AI has never been more accessible to the business world. Many businesses are striving to let these super smart algorithms loose on their large stores of data.

Domains such as banking, finance and retail have all leveraged AI in one way or another - mostly to improve productivity and increase revenue, but not all domains have made the same progress.

Accessibility and Inclusion is one example of an area that has yet to fully immerse itself into the AI space. Accessibility and Inclusion is about making technology accessible to all - especially those with disabilities who are usually relegated to a limited experience through no fault of their own. Not everyone can navigate a mouse, or a keyboard, or even see a screen.

Wouldn’t it be great if AI could be used to make technology more accessible? The great news is that with the right investment, it can.

Here are some examples of AI technologies that have the potential to break into the assistive technology space: 

  • Converting sign language to text: Image recognition is used in so many domains - law enforcement mug shots, mobile security identification and map labelling, just to name a few. All have benefited from deep learning algorithms – inspired by the inner workings of the human brain and used to identify objects like a human eye. Integrating these innovations with assistive technology could result in a “Sign to Text” application that would impact thousands in the deaf community. The application would leverage object recognition capabilities by analysing millions of pre-existing sign language gestures to detect their shape. The algorithm would then be able to interpret a user’s live hand gestures, using a camera and subsequently converting those gestures into readable text.
  • Combining augmented reality and speech recognition: Imagine wearing a pair of glasses that projects a screen and mimics the computer experience right in front of you. Operating with speech to text commands, augmented reality could transform the technology experience for thousands of people with mobility limitations. Creating pre-configured voice commands such as “open” would eliminate the motor requirements of moving a mouse, typing on a keyboard and create an all-round more fluid user experience.
  • Object detection glasses: This concept uses deep learning image algorithms to detect objects within a user’s environment. The glasses register the visual object (such as a vase), then compare it against millions of pre-existing images to provide an audio response back to the user (“there is a vase next to you”). The same can be applied to faces, thus improving the social and professional working experience for persons with sight limitations.

These are just three examples of how AI can be applied to improve how people with disabilities interact with technology, their friends and co-workers, and the world around them.

Assistive technologies are designed to address these challenges head on. AI has never been more innovative. Putting the two together would create something truly transformational.