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Microsoft pledges US$25 million programme to harness the power of AI for people with disabilities

By Vijay Anand - on 7 May 2018, 11:48pm

Microsoft pledges US$25 million programme to harness the power of AI for people with disabilities

Charlotte Yarkoni, corporate vice president of Growth and Ecosystem, at Build 2018.

Once a buzzword, artificial intelligence is steadily being embedded in every corner of our lives. As AI plays an increasing role in our lives, Microsoft is committed to advancing human good and has launched a US$25 million programme to harness the power of AI assist people with disabilities - AI for Accessibility.

In the words of Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, our world will soon be fueled by AI that will power better healthcare, relief challenges for providing basic human needs and create a society that’s more inclusive and accessible.

How exactly is Microsoft involved in all of this?

By equipping developers with the right tools and guidance to change the world, of course. Microsoft Build is after all a developers’ show and a platform for Microsoft to project how its services and knowledge in all things behind the scenes can have a profound effect on business and personal life.

In a nutshell, AI for Accessibility is a call to developers, non-governmental organizations, academics, researchers and innovators to fast track their AI-based approach to solutions that create opportunities and assist people with disabilities in work, life and making human connections.  The program comprises grants, technology investments, and expertise, and will also incorporate AI for Accessibility innovations into Microsoft cloud services to help bring these projects to scale. It builds on the success of the similar AI for Earth initiative that was announced late in 2017.

The impact of AI in advancing accessibility tools

Microsoft and the world have begun to see the impact AI can have in accelerating tools for accessibility needs, such as how the Microsoft Translator is aiding people with hearing disabilities with real-time captioning of conversations. Its technology was first demoed in 2014 as the Skype Translator. Similarly, Helpicto is an application that turns voice commands into images and is enabling kids with autism to better understand their world and communicate with others:-

Meanwhile, the Seeing AI app from Microsoft is a tool that narrates the world around you and is designed to assist the visually challenged community by harnessing the power of AI to open up the world around them:-

What more will Microsoft’s technology and tools help developers create? We’ll find out soon enough.