Tag: Devices

New Assistive Technologies in 2022

There is no doubt that technology has changed the world in innumerable ways. In particular, it has made life easier for people with disabilities. Assistive technologies have come a long way in the past few years, and they are only going to get better in 2022. Many people with disabilities rely on assistive technologies to help them with everyday tasks. Here are some of the most promising new technologies that will be available in 2022.

 

  1. Help for the Hearing Impaired
    One of the most promising new technologies for people with hearing impairments is called AudioEye. This technology uses a combination of hardware and software to provide real-time captioning for live events. AudioEye is already being used by some major corporations, including Microsoft and AT&T. Also, the National Association of the Deaf has given AudioEye its seal of approval. Most importantly, AudioEye is very affordable, which makes it accessible to people with all types of hearing impairments.

 

  1. Help for the Dexterity-Challenged
    There are many new technologies being developed to help people with dexterity issues. One of the most promising is a robotic arm that can be controlled by thoughts. The user simply wears a special cap that reads brain waves. This technology is still in the early stages of development, but it has great potential for people with disabilities. According to one estimate, there are over a million people in the United States alone who could benefit from this technology.

 

  1. Help for the Visually Impaired
    There are several new technologies being developed to help the visually impaired. One of the most promising is called eSight. This wearable device uses a high-definition camera to capture images and then displays them on two OLED screens in front of the user’s eyes. The result is that the user can see things that they would not be able to see with their naked eyes. eSight is already being used by thousands of people around the world, and it is expected to be available to the general public by 2022.

 

These are just a few examples of the new assistive technologies that will be available in 2022. It is clear that these technologies have the potential to change the lives of people with disabilities for the better. We can only imagine what new technologies will be developed in the years to come.

Technology Spotlight Project Understood Russ Ewell

Technology Spotlight: Project Understood

Google is a seasoned pro when it comes to developing reliable and modern technology that promotes inclusion amongst all users. We are living in an era where voice technology is becoming the norm as pivotal software to assist users with a variety of tasks. Digital voice assistants like Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa have quickly become a necessity through all tech mediums like smartphones, tablets, and home devices. 

 

However, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) noticed that voice technology can lack the capability to correctly understand and transmit the voices of individuals with Down Syndrome. The way that individuals with Down Syndrome speak can be anomalous compared to those without, making the software difficult to use. Although, it is likely that individuals with a number of disabilities would benefit from the technology the most.  

 

With this mission in mind, the CDSS set forth to find partnership in one of these major tech companies to not only recognize the issue at hand but join them in developing a solution that they have named Project Understood. Google was quick to jump on board and, with the society’s help, is testing its technology. 

 

The initial test was to record 1,700 words and phrases spoken by individuals with Down Syndrome. From there, researchers could analyze whether or not Google’s voice technology was able to learn from the repetitive input of this voice data. They started with about nine volunteers. 

 

After the initial testing, researched could confirm that Google’s voice technology was able to understand about 2 of 3 words spoken by individuals with Down Syndrome and that it has the capabilities to learn more with further data. Now the project just needs to secure more volunteers to feed Google’s voice technology more data. 

 

Google and the CDSS are now seeking to collect about a thousand different voices of individuals with Down Syndrome to donate their time to developing this dynamic software. Not only will this help teach the system to learn to recognize speech from individuals with Down Syndrome, but it should also benefit other individuals with disabilities or atypical speech. 

 

Google and the Canadian Down Syndrome Society are just a few of a number of companies that are working to build a more inclusive future for individuals with disabilities. Voice recognition, along with other smart technologies, has the capability to enhance the lives of all users, no matter their differences. 

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.

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.

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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