Category: Russ Ewell

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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