Artificial intelligence & machine learning can be deployed to create products for enhanced productivity among the differently-abled
Technological advancements in hospitals are no more restricted to the facilitation of surgeries by humanoids and the like. The wave of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) is rampant across the globe, prompting professionals in different fields to explore areas that have remained dormant for years. Exoskeletons are being developed, organs on a chip are gaining traction, mobile applications that can convert textbooks into audio are writ large, and so on.
Empower 2019, a recently concluded unique conference, shed some more light on the assistive technologies that support independence and productivity. Hosted by Microsoft India in collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, the conference brought researchers, technologists and policy makers under a roof to discuss steps that can be taken to create and make assistive technologies, especially with the aim of empowering persons with disabilities. In its personal capacity, Microsoft India has developed a variety of tools and software such as Seeing AI, Tell Me, Dictate that helped persons with disabilities perform tasks that were undoable without technology intervention. The company is also running a five-year $25 million programme called “AI for Accessibility” to accelerate development of solutions that understand people’s needs better.
IIT Delhi, in its right runs an Assistive Technology laboratory called ASSISTECH to develop affordable solutions for mobility and education of the visually impaired people. The lab has successfully launched many solutions that have gained a cult following of sorts in the marketplace. “Most of our tools are a demonstrator of what all is possible through AI and ML on cloud or elsewhere. They primarily showcase that we have all these technologies that we can put to use for making the lives of persons with disabilities easier. Microsoft is not selling these tools, it is just showing that all of it is available. The stakeholders who specialise in specific product designs can create wonders with it,” said Manohar Swaminathan, principal researcher, Microsoft Research, on the sidelines of the conference.
Here are a few assistive-tech enabled products that were showcased at Empower 2019:
ArmAble: Therapy for disfigured limbs
This innovative solution is solving a pressing need for intensive, engaging and regular rehabilitation therapy for the upper limb. It is an arm rehabilitation device, aimed towards neuro-rehabilitation of stroke victims and motor rehabilitation of victims with upper motor deficit due to conditions such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, fracture, frozen shoulder, etc. It involves playing games to induce movement and practice therapy for disfigured limbs.
Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller for persons with orthopedic disabilities
Designed primarily to meet the needs of gamers with limited mobility, the Xbox Adaptive Controller features large programmable buttons and connects to external switches, buttons, mounts, and joysticks to help make gaming more accessible on Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs. The device can be connected to any external device and be used not just for playing games, but for other purposes too.
Robo bionics prosthetic hand
A Make in India initiative supported by the government, the prosthetic hand’s gripper is a battery-power device actuated by surface mounted sensors. It has grip control which allows you to grip both hard and soft surfaces. Usually persons who use prosthetic hands feel that the hand is independent of their bodies. But with the Robo bionics prosthetic hand, the person can feel vibrations and act accordingly.
Saarthi: Walk with pride for visually impaired
Saarthi is an assistive mobility device designed to work both inside and outdoors. It offers 99.7% accuracy in obstacle detection and 98.2% precision in angle accuracy. It has an adjustable screw that allows it to be mounted on any white cane. The battery is rechargeable by any micro USB charger and one charge lasts for more than 30 days with daily usage. It has a battery back-up of 7 days.
Dotbook with Braille display
Developed by IIT Delhi, KritiKal Solutions, Pheonix Medical Systems, and Delhi-based Saksham Trust, the Dotbook is a refreshable Braille display, packed with all the applications and features that a visually impaired user would need to independently carry out their tasks with ease. These features include e-mail, calculator, web browser and comes with a QWERTY keyboard. It allows integration with third party applications, and can be attached to a PC as well.