Navigate The City With These Assistive Technologies Russ Ewell

Navigate the City with These Assistive Technologies

Modern technology is empowering people to make simple changes to the way they live. For instance, voice-activated commands have become a common way for consumers to shop and self-driving cars are making their way into the general population. However, these innovations aren’t nearly as astonishing as the technology that’s empowering individuals with disabilities to live more efficient lifestyles – especially those who live in bustling cities.

It’s harder for people with disabilities to make trips outside of their homes. Consequently, the assistive technology business is a growing industry that’s set on changing the lives of people with disabilities by helping them get around their cities. This list gives a synopsis of the way technology is evolving to help the handicapped find accessibility in their cities.

 

  • Walking Stick of the Future: Visual impairments make living in a crowded and busy city extremely difficult. Imagine moving along a busy intersection without relying on the use of eyesight for guidance. Engineers from Young Guru Academy (YGA) in Turkey have developed a smart walking stick – the WeWalk Stick. This technology uses voice navigation to guide the user. It’s integrated with Google maps to help the user with navigation, and it warns the user with vibrations when the stick is approaching objects above chest height

 

  • Robotic Suit: A brilliant innovation in mobility is making marathon racing possible for people with disabilities. This exomuscular robotic suit has sensors that help control its movements and adds a layer of artificial muscle to support stability and mobility. A robotic suit sounds like it would weigh a ton, but this innovation weighs just 11 pounds.

 

  • Wheelchair That Climbs: A new innovation in handicapped assistance is set to become available by the end of 2019 – the Scewo. For individuals living in or outside of the city who have a physical disability, stairs are an unavoidable obstacle. It’s hard to imagine staying on the ground level when there’s a horizon of sky rises. Luckily, developers of the wheelchair technology created a wheelchair capable of facing a variety of terrains, including stairs.

 

These machines and the technology that powers them have the ability to dramatically change the lives of individuals with physical disabilities. While these innovations are relatively expensive, this technology is just becoming available to the public and this growth will come to more affordable options for all. It is hopeful that this technology will continue to grow at this rapid pace and soon navigating a city with a physical disability will not be a daunting task.

Microsoft's Focus On Inclusivity Russ Ewell

Microsoft’s Focus on Inclusivity

What started as a new controller intended for professional and intense gamers quickly became a sensation for a different group of video game lovers – those with mobile disabilities. When Microsoft launched their new Elite controller for Xbox one, it featured the ability for extreme gamers to customize some of the buttons and a textured grip for ease of grip. Microsoft had unintentionally created a customizable controller better equipped for video game enthusiasts with mobile disabilities. This was the start of a series of progressive improvements that Microsoft would make for inclusivity. 

 

After the buzz associated with the accessibility of the new Elite remote with disabled gamers, Microsoft launched a new software update with this demographic in mind. They updated the existing narrator and magnifying feature to assist those with vision impairments. They also debuted the copilot feature that allowed users to handle the buttons better with just one hand. 

 

Microsoft then developed its Xbox Adaptive Controller designed explicitly with disabled players in mind. This foot-long board features two large buttons that can be programmed to perform any function. It also has 19 3.5mm jacks that allow for a variety of input devices to plug into the controller. Some of these assistive inputs include foot pedals, microswitches, larger buttons, or joysticks. The standard-sized jack allows for gamers to utilize peripherals that users may already own for other functions as well. These features will enable each player to create a controller that can function with their unique disabilities. Creating a truly personalized gaming experience feeds into the inclusivity that Microsoft is yearning. 

 

While the controller itself is more substantial and looks different than the standard controller, it is specifically designed to foster inclusivity. The color scheme is in keeping with a standard Xbox one council, and it still features all of the standard buttons like menu, pause, and start. Microsoft’s intent with this design is to avoid an outcast appearance for individuals who need assistive technology. Instead, the purpose is for users to play together with others and face no different challenges than anyone else. 

 

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is making it easier than ever for children with differences or disabilities to enjoy the inclusivity that the gaming world has to offer. Children and adults can immerse themselves in a world where you can customize your avatar and roam around a foreign land with made-up storylines – all while connecting with users from across the globe. In the gaming world, your physical limitations don’t exist, and Microsoft is taking steps to make this authentic in the real world as well. 

Speech Technology For People With Nonverbal Autism Russ Ewell

VocaliD: Speech Technology for People with Nonverbal Autism

Close to 25% of all people with Autism are considered nonverbal. These individuals rely on gestures and movements or minimal vocabulary to communicate with others. As one can imagine, this comes with a series of challenges as well as social barriers for people with Autism. Many parents report that their child with Autism has experienced bullying at school due to their lack of communication.

 

In this technological era, there are copious technologies that offer automated voice assistance from a touch-screen device. An iPad now offers applications that show pictures of objects and, when clicked on, will project the word in a robotic voice. However, the personalization is still lacking from this technology, which can cause emotional distress for an individual with nonverbal Autism. Luckily, VocaliD founder Rupal Patel has a solution.

 

VocaliD is a new technology that combines the individual’s real voice with that of a ‘voice donor’ in their database. This combination provides the individual with nonverbal Autism with a unique pseudo-voice personalized to match their own. Patel’s technology starts by capturing a recording of the individual saying a word or syllable. From there, Patel’s database full of tens of thousands of voice donors filters by factors like age, gender, and regional dialect. Pitch and volume of the recipient’s natural vocals are also considered when matching with a donor.

 

The goal of this technology is not to provide just a voice to individuals with nonverbal Autism – this is available through many different applications and technologies. The goal is instead to give the individual a unique and clear voice that is representative of their real personality.  The psychological benefits of achieving this goal are immaculate.

 

Patel has found that most individuals who own this assistive technology can show hesitation in utilizing them. This could be because the voice cannot be completely personalized. Two individuals using the same technology will likely have the same “voice” regardless of their age, gender, or background. This naturally discourages people, especially children, from using their assistive technology for fear of being made fun of or misunderstood.

 

With VocaliD, Patel and the other developers hope that the utilization of the technology could also encourage children and adults with nonverbal Autism to become more verbal over time. There is evidence that suggests that children who use technology for speech assistance regularly will learn to form and say words in their own voices.

 

While this technology is still very new, the promise of personalized assistance to children and adults with any form of Autism is an inspiring step in the right direction.

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What are Screen Readers and How Can They Help Disabled People

Screen readers are software programs that can be installed in computers or mobile devices. They read the text that is displayed on the screen with either a speech synthesizer or a braille display. It is essentially an interface that dwells between the computer’s operating system and the user.

Screen readers can be run on personal computers running Linux, Windows, Mac, IOS, Android, and others. They are mainly useful to people who “do not have useful vision to read text on the screen. A screen reader can also be the product of choice for someone with vision that is useful for travel, but not for reading. In the long run, learning to listen to speech output will prove more productive for such individuals than struggling to read a text while leaning close to the computer screen.”

Screen readers can give people whose vision does not allow them to use computers and cellular devices the power and independence to benefit from the many aspects of computers and devices.

The breakdown of how the screen reader works is not too complicated. The user inputs command into the reader by pressing keys on the computer keyboard or braille display. This instructs the speech synthesizer on what to say and report on, and will alert to when changes occur on the screen. The user can also command for the synthesizer to “read or spell a word, read a line or full screen of text, find a string of text on the screen, announce the location of the computer’s cursor or focused item, and so on.” There are also more advanced functions that a user can perform. It can locate displays in certain colors or fonts, identify an active menu choice, and use spell checker.

Overall, the screen reader can be incredibly useful and an indisposable tool for someone who is unable to read text on screens. It will allow a user to listen to speech output and serves a variety of useful functions. It can give users the independence to access technology through other technology.

Three Cutting Edge Technologies

Three Cutting Edge Technologies

Technology continues making advancements faster than in previous years. Modern-day technology is now commonplace in a variety of fields that include business, health care and recreation. There are a number of new innovations that are bound to change the world.

Technological Trends

American manufacturing has taken a heavy hit as companies make their way overseas or into Mexico. However, numerous companies are experiencing a resurgence thanks to technological advances. According to an article printed in the New York Times, manufactures now report a 47 percent increase in production. The improvement is made possible using automation and robotics. Although many fear that introducing technology depletes possibilities in the job market. Employees must operate and maintain the machines, which produces more jobs.

2D to 3D Conversions

Smartphones are commonly used daily throughout the world. However, software developed by Julien Flack of Dynamic Digital Depth improves smartphone use by leaps and bounds. By turning a smartphone horizontally, users may soon be able to see three-dimensional images. The technology was first introduced in South Korea in the Samsung B710 smartphone. The device appears similar to any other current-day model. However, the phone enables owners to see 3D hologram-like images. The 3D conversion will especially be attractive to people who enjoy gaming on their phones. The 3D-equipped W960 smartphone was recently introduced. The technology is expected to become popular with consumers in the next few years.

3D Metal Printing

3D printers are now employed for a variety of home and industrial use. However, until now, all of the printed items consisted of polymer materials. Desktop Metal based in Massachusetts plans to change the market of 3D printing. Traditional metal manufacturing is largely wasteful in nature. The majority of materials used to produce metal parts are cut away and discarded. On the other hand, having the ability to print metal objects uses less energy and greatly reduces waste. Although the invention is not quite ready for the average consumer, the technology is available to medium and large businesses. However, the machinery, materials and furnace needed to create the products come with a price of approximately $120,000.

Snake Robots

The health hazards associated with people correcting nuclear plant accidents is of great concern to many world countries. However, the danger is greatly reduced when companies employ the use of snake robots. The robots are designed to mimic their real-life counterparts. They can crawl, climb and slither into tight-fitting spaces requiring inspection. When equipped with specialized cameras, the snakes can be used to make their way up and down pipes, tubes and into valves to check for possible problems. In this way, the robots feed information to technicians before major mishaps occur. Along with making nuclear plants safer for people, robot snakes might prove useful in many other industrial applications.

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2018 Breakthrough Technologies

As the world moves faster and faster, new breakthrough technologies emerge that continue to change the face of the planet. Some of these technologies have more substantial effects than others, altering the way we communicate with each other, interpret our reality, and achieve everyday feats. Here are some breakthrough technologies of 2018 that you need to know about:

3D Metal Printing

For as long as the industrial world has existed, creating physical objects required massive amounts of resources, machines, and human resources. However, with 3D printing, everything is changing. It is putting the power of creating entirely new products in the hands of everyday people and consumers. Only time will tell, but it could spell the end of the manufacturing stronghold that a few companies have and release the ability to make anything from nothing to masses.

AI Customer Experiences

Expect to see unique customer experiences that are in real time as the neural network and AI grow more intelligent. Eventually, AI could appear to be a real person that you are communicating with across the internet or even over the phone. This is due to the complex learning algorithms that AI has been leveraging to allow them to engage in higher-level patterns that people use in daily communication. It will enable businesses to anticipate user needs on a new level and could provide more convenience for everyday consumers than ever before.

A Sensing City

In the city of Toronto, along the waterfront Alphabet (Google’s parent company) is quietly building a unique urban town from the ground up. It isn’t like any other city. Instead, the buildings and the landscape have built-in sensors that detect things like pollution and noise levels to determine the quality of life in the area. Then, they will use this data to create an environment that is more comfortable and desirable to live in, appealing to all the senses.

Zero Carbon Natural Gas

Carbon is one of the most significant problems with the environment today. As more of it is released into the atmosphere, it reduces the Earth’s natural protection from the sun. New zero carbon natural gas promises to eliminate this issue once and for all.

When it comes to technology, digital innovations like the internet have enabled even more creativity to unfold. The inventions above are just the tip of the iceberg of the incredible technology to keep an eye out for this year and beyond. But they are something that could take humanity in a new, and beneficial direction for ages to come.

Spotlight On Disability Positive Companies John’s Crazy Socks (4)

How Apps are Helping People with Autism

Technology is improving day in and day out, and with that comes the power to transcend just silly games, instant messaging, and social media. With that comes the power to actually make a change and use apps to help people access the world in different ways. They can be used as both an accessibility resource and a research to keep children learning in ways that work for them. A predominance of these apps focuses on helping children with autism practice skills in an encouraging and fun one. Here are a couple examples of those apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Android:

Autism iHelp

Autism iHelp is an aid that teaches vocabulary words and includes 72 photographs paired with vocabulary words and learning enhancement activities. These activities are presented as games in order to focus on retention and auditory and visual memory. The app was developed through the collaboration of a speech-language pathologist and the parents of a child with autism.

Upper Case–Autism Series

This app is specifically meant for Android opposed to iPhone and iPad. The app provides coloring pages that help children learn the alphabet, and is specifically designed for younger children and toddlers.

Autism and PDD Concepts Lite

This iPad and iPhone app offer a wide range of stories and corresponding questions. It aims to increase reading comprehension and understanding.

Autism Aid App

This app, as well, is only available for Android and has been received with quite high ratings from users. It has a number of functions. It allows families to seek out help in case of an emergency, it helps children on the autism spectrum develop their communication skills, and lastly, it brings attention to external services available for both children with autism and their families.

Articulation Station

Articulation Station was created by a certified speech-language pathologist and helps children learn how to speak and pronounce words and sounds. The words being tuned are paired with high-quality images in order to engage in multiple modes of learning, as well as fun activities and games to keep your children engaged.

See.Touch.Learn.

This app focuses on the importance of visual instruction, a way which particularly benefits many people with autism. This app has thousands of picture based flashcards and exercises built off of them, and also includes the ability to create custom lessons and to expand the library of flashcards once a set has been mastered.

The Role Technology Plays In Startups (1)

The Role Technology Plays in Startups

Today’s world is, more than ever, propelled by innovative technology that is a major force behind the functioning of startups. Technology is playing many parts in the growth of startups. It changes the way that advertising is done and who it is able to reach, helps manage financial and statistic information within the startup, can keep employees connected in new ways, and more.

Technology is adding tactics beyond those which are considered orthodox to the wheelhouse of startups. Technology can be used to drive revenue for countries while simultaneously providing increased accessibility. Here are some potential ways that technology can help startups grow and compete:

Improve Customer Service with the Cloud

The cloud can help you combine customer experience and service into one central locus. The cloud is a great place to bridge an immediate gap between the customer and your customer service rep, thus allowing them to understand where the customer is coming from much better via apps and shared information.

Use Amazon Alexa as an Assistant

Amazon Alexa is an incredibly useful piece of technology. It is a base for so many sorts of information and resources that are all just a vocalization away. Additionally, by connecting Alexa to your personal documents and resources you can ask for information verbally without having to shuffle through papers or sift through files. This may only save a couple of minutes or seconds here and there, but your time is very valuable and these minutes and seconds all add up. She can also be used to send an email verbally, create a to-do list, notify you when a customer is contacting you, and more.

Utilize Managed IT Services to Secure Your Network

It is quite expensive to have a well-staffed IT department to avoid getting hacked. Often, hackers target small businesses and startups as they know that their defenses may not be as strong. CNBC reports that, in 2017, almost 6 in 10 businesses reported that they had received a cyber attack. However, Managed IT Servers have become increasingly prominent as a way for small businesses and startups to defend against cyber threats and become less vulnerable and increasingly fortified, at a very affordable cost.

These services can offer high-powered solutions to be proactive in fending off cyber attacks and maintain a secure company and information base. This defense will give your company the space and safety that it needs for growth.

A New Niche For Smart Glasses

Wearable technology is a relatively recent field that has exploded in popularity in recent years. The Fitbit and similar smartwatches are near-ubiquitous and can be seen on wrists young and old. Medical devices have gained popularity in the industry for their ability to enable patients to monitor their own health.

However, it hasn’t been all revolutionary breakthroughs. Some products do not resonate as well as others. Smart eyewear has become the black sheep of the wearable family, lampooned for its strange appearance and debatable utility. The challenge with these glasses seems to be making a device that people would actually want to wear, with companies such as Intel edging closer to that sweet spot.

Even as smart eyewear struggles to find its place in the world of wearables, it does find a niche helping special needs children learn. Technology such as non-traditional keyboards designed for autistic students is already popular among education professionals working with these children. Google Glass, the poster child for misguided attempts at eyewear technology, has nevertheless rebranded itself as a product for businesses looking to improve the skills of their workers on the spot. Additionally, it has promised utility for the classroom, helping autistic children learn.

Among these students, the results have been noteworthy. All eight children tested by Harvard University’s Department of Psychology were able to successfully use the device without stress. Researchers used smartglasses as a way to help children identify social cues based on facial expressions and other minute changes that autistic individuals have difficulty identifying. They also discussed the need for devices that are aesthetically pleasing, so that the users are less likely to face stigma for their use. All participants did, however, report that they would be willing to use the glasses again in a different setting.

As with anything else designed for special needs students, it is important that their opinions are solicited before coming to any conclusions. If the technology is untested, it can be uncomfortable for the individuals at best or overwhelming at worst. Caregivers can be fundamental in ensuring that these devices supplement the help that they are already providing. In this way, Google Glass seems to be a great method for teaching the subtleties of social interaction that may be hard to impart through other educational methods. Smartglasses worn on a consistent basis can provide support on the spot, with the potential to radically affect a child’s perceptions of the environments in which he or she grows up. This, in turn, can lead to positive improvement in development and psychological well-being.

That said, it is still not a perfect technology. Less-than-stellar attitudes toward smartglasses may make some less willing to use them in social situations. Additionally, physical concerns about the glasses staying in place with head movements are also worth noting.

Assitive Technology and Autism

Evolving over decades, technology has changed the way society functions. From advanced features in homes such as a refrigerator that plays music to a vacuum that roams your home all on its own. In addition to lifestyle convince, technology has had a huge impact in advancing the way we communicate and learn– particularly in the area of developmental skills with those who have disabilities. In a growing trend, technology is a tool used to enhance how students learn in school.  

About 1 in 68 children are identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This developmental disability can affect speech, language, cognitive learning, and more.

When technology first emerged for children, many parents were skeptical (and many still are) to allowing their children time with technology. Mindless video games and television shows seemed to have no educational value to their children, thus only wasting their time. In efforts to utilize this advanced power, teachers and engineers have drastically changed the idea of wasteful technology– enter what is called “assistive technology”.

For individuals with autism, developmental skills and communication are a challenge. Through assistive technology, someone on the autism spectrum can have improved quality of life. The Autism Speaks’ Innovative Technology for Autism Initiative (ITA) advocates to adapt and promote technology in order to positively impact individuals with autism

One of the common forms of technology for individuals with autism are PDAs. Personal Digital Assistants have come a long way since their creation. They are popular among businessmen and entrepreneurs, but are also a great tool for people on the autism spectrum. PDAs allow individuals to stay organized and on top of their schedule. A PDA eases frustration of an individual with autism by allowing them to be more independent and keeping track of their activities. PDAs provide reminders to move from one task to another, without the need of human interaction.

Many people with autism prefer computer interaction over human communication. Assistive devices create a world where they feel less anxious and reduced frustration for easier human communication. Think of a basic cell phone. People carry their phones everything. From cameras and calendars to speed dial and contacts, cell phones allow for easy functionality with everyday tasks. Quick phone calls or text messages make communicating through cell phones convenient and less stressful than in-person contact at times.

Another form of assistive technology that individuals with autism favor are ipads and mobile devices. Applications are readily downloadable with interactive games. Beyond general gaming, apps can help track migraines, seizures, sleep, medications and more. Apps can assist with cognitive development, behaviors/cues, and communication.

Assistive technology is a digital tool that improves cognitive learning and communication for individuals with autism. More importantly, it creates and builds confidence. These tools help people with autism navigate social situations. Thanks to technology, we are able to bridge a gap between typically developing children, and children on the autism spectrum.

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