As more tech companies invest in Artificial Intelligence or AI, the realm of possibilities continue to expand. One of the emerging fields in which AI is on the cusp of making real breakthroughs is with human disabilities. AI is what runs the likes of Siri and Alexa, and this type of development is focused on accessible and inclusive designs. These tech companies are focused on developing AI in order to make all forms of content and information accessible to everyone. One of the most visible and successful examples of AI for people with disabilities was Stephen Hawking. AI helped him not just continue his research and studies but also helped him impart his vast knowledge while also allowing him movement.
Microsoft is one of the largest investors in AI and has spent many hours and dollars on developing new technologies that include people with disabilities. The Microsoft Seeing Ai allows visually impaired people to recognise people, money, text, and more by narrating the world that the user inhabits. Microsoft Hello uses biometric login such as face recognition and fingerprint or iris scans. This can be particularly useful for people who have physical disabilities or for people who are dyslexic. The FCC has made it mandatory to provide closed captions for speech and sound effects. With machine learning, Google has been able to roll out the same features for YouTube videos. This allows people with hearing impairment to enjoy the full range of the video.
With about 15% of the world’s population living with some disability and a rapidly ageing population in many countries, companies have been invested in finding solutions that help seamlessly. One of the most ambitious ideas is to create robot caregivers. With Honda developing the ASIMO, this future seems more achievable. The idea is to have these caregivers help in order to fit the needs of the individual. From making coffee to making sure your prescriptions are filled, they will be a valuable asset for many. Another concept that is still in the nascent stage but can prove to be life-changing for those paralysed is robotic exoskeletons. These can help relieve pressure and even provide movement for the paralysed region.
What Do We Need?
For AI to truly have an impact on the differently abled, a lot of forces need to come together with the express idea of including all people. Currently, companies seem to be suffering from a lack of awareness and how their technologies are effectively alienating people. Alexa and Siri are useless for those who have a hearing impairment. As more companies begin to embrace universal design principles, more people will be able to use these devices. These companies must work with people with disabilities when testing a product. They can do so by working with universities. Lastly, governments need to shake their apathy and start defining the needs of the differently abled in a social and cultural context.
There is no doubt that Artificial Intelligence can significantly improve the lifestyle of a physically disables person while also providing them with dignity. However, much of the research and development is still at a nascent stage. Working on inclusive design principles will benefit the companies that are on the cusp of AI R&D.