Category: Russ Ewell

Google's New Accessibility Projects Russ Ewell

Google’s New Accessibility Projects

Google has recently unveiled 3 separate efforts to bring technology to those with disabilities to help make their daily lives easier and more accessible. The three projects are Project Euphonia, which aims to help those with speech impairments; Live Relay, which assists anyone who is hard of hearing; and Project Diva, which aims to give autonomy and independence to people with the help of Google Assist.

More than 15% of people in the United States live with a disability, and that number is only expected to grow in the years ahead as we grow older and start living longer. There has never been a better time to try to harness the power of our technology to help make the lives of the disabled more comfortable and fulfilling.

 

Project Euphonia

Project Euphonia aims to help those with speech difficulties caused by cerebral palsy, autism, and other developmental disorders, as well as neurologic conditions like ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), stroke, MS (multiple sclerosis), Parkinson’s Disease, or traumatic brain injuries. Google’s aim with Project Euphonia is to use the power of AI to help computers understand speech that is impaired with improved accuracy, and then, in turn, use those computers to make sure everyone using the service can be understood.

Google has partnered with the ALS Residence Initiative and the ALS Therapy Development Institute to record voices of men and women with ALS, and have worked on optimizing algorithms that can help to transcribe and recognize their words more reliably.

 

Live Relay

Live Relay was set up with the goal of bringing voice calls to those who are deaf or hard of hearing. By using a phone’s own speech recognition and text-to-speech software, users will be able to let the phone listen and speak on their behalf, making it possible to speak to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

Google also plans to integrate real-time translation into their Live Relay software, allowing anyone in the world to speak to one another regardless of any language barrier.

 

Project Diva

Project Diva helps those who are nonverbal or suffer from limited mobility to give Google Assistant commands without needing to use their voice, but instead by using an external switch device.

The device is a small box into which an assistive button is plugged. The signal coming from the button is then converted by the box into a command sent to the Google Assistant.

For now, Project Diva is limited to single-purpose buttons, but they are currently devising a system that makes use of RFID tags which they can then associate with certain specific commands.

How Ai Is Improving Assistive Technology Russ Ewell

How AI is Improving Assistive Technology

Assistive technology is an AI-based solution that helps people and businesses save time and simplifies processes. Many businesses have adopted forms of assistive technology, such as automation, in their operations to increase efficiency. Ultimately, automation and robotics are becoming more sophisticated and are playing an increasing role in the workplace in many operations. However, a lesser-known function for AI is how it is improving and advancing assistive technology for individuals with disabilities. 

 

AI for Medicinal Purposes

One of the areas where AI has developed rapidly is the medical industry, as physicians can now track patients through electronic medical devices. Smart devices are helping save lives by alerting medical professionals in emergency situations. AI-based devices can track heart rate, blood pressure, and many other physical processes of patients. Robots can be programmed to assist individuals with disabilities with certain tasks like making emergency calls or reminding a patient to take medication.

 

Communicative Assistance

Many new developments are in the works to help improve communication among individuals with disabilities. A highly accurate device that converts sign language into text or voice makes communication easier between those with and without hearing impairments. A 3D camera tracking body movement is also revolutionizing the possibilities of AI. Assistive technology can potentially change someone’s life at a personal and professional level.

 

Smart Glasses and Hearing Aids

Some of the innovations on the horizon for assistive technology include smart glasses and cognitive hearing aids. Augmented reality glass enhances a certain component of sight, developed by Google, which has been working on smart glass projects throughout the decade. Cognitive hearing aids that track brain waves are now on display at Columbia University School of Engineering.

 

Other AI Applications

There are several other AI applications in the medical industry, many of which relate to wearables. University of Houston researchers are currently testing a biofeedback rehabilitation wearable, which consists of a belt made of vibrating actuators. These actuators are sensors that map out real-movement of the individual wearing the belt. By collecting and analyzing data on a daily basis, the system can monitor behaviors associated with Parkinson’s Disease.

 

Assistive learning is focused on improving the quality of life for individuals with a variety of disabilities. Innovative ideas ushered in by AI technology allow for a growing range of solutions that these individuals did not experience prior to the development of wearables. In the future, we expect many new opportunities for assistive technology advances with the help of AI devices.

Assistive Technology In The Classroom Russ Ewell

Assistive Technology in the Classroom

According to statistics of organizations that represent people with disabilities, one out of nine children under the age of 18 in the United States needs to receive special education attention. It has been reported that the number of students with disabilities has risen by over 30% over the last ten years.

Special assistive technology in classrooms is highly essential to enable these students to learn as seamlessly as possible. Here are four of the most essential assistive technologies used in learning institutions for students with disabilities across the country.

Text-to-speech tools

The text-to-speech assistive technology is software designed to enable students or children with reading-related disabilities to learn. This software is suitable for children with disabilities such as visual impairment that prevents them from seeing and reading effectively. Additional students that can benefit from TTS software include children with autism, intellectual disabilities, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Draft:Builder

Draft:Builder is a writing aid tool that enables children with disabilities to comprehend writing-related tasks in the classroom. This tool enables students to visualize classwork material and thereafter insert the necessary information in template form. Draft:Builder helps students to conceptualize the entire process of learning through definite steps that are easy to memorize. The visible steps allow students to engage more of their senses for assistance with memorizing and learning class materials. The software is used for students with intellectual-based disabilities.

FM Systems

FM Systems are built for children who have sensorineural hearing loss that is commonly linked to hearing impairments. The technology has the teacher use a special transmitter microphone to relay coursework to the student wearing a receiver. The receiver then amplifies the teacher’s voice into the ears of the student. The FM System is designed to enable students to hear clearly, irrespective of surrounding noises, distance, and background noise.

Math tools

For students with visual impairments, learning mathematics can be quite challenging. Various math-related tools, like Matt Talk, allow students with these disabilities to speak through a microphone into a program that then transforms the voice into actual writing. Math Simulations is another math tool that is suitable for students with dyscalculia, a learning disability to makes it difficult for them to comprehend arithmetic-related tasks. It is designed to enable students with visual and intellectual disabilities to visualize math concepts for better understanding.

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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