Contribution of artificial intelligence on assistive technology innovation

An AI generated image of a person in a wheelchair and a person standing using crutches with technology around them.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is playing a significant role in driving innovation in the field of assistive technology. It has the potential to change the way individuals with disabilities interact with the world, enhancing their independence, communication, and overall quality of life. Here are a few areas where AI is making notable contributions:

Predictive Analytics and Personalization

AI algorithms can analyse user data and predict patterns and behaviours, leading to more personalized assistive technology solutions. This allows assistive devices to adapt to the specific needs and preferences of individuals improving user experience. Google Docs’ latest Smart Compose feature aims to help users reduce repetitive writing, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes. It relies on artificial intelligence to predict what you might want to type next and correct any mistakes you make.  Smart Compose is already part of Gmail to help users draft emails faster.

Computer Vision

AI-powered computer vision systems enable devices to perceive and understand the visual world, benefiting individuals with visual impairments. Object recognition algorithms can help identify and describe objects, texts, and people in real-time, allowing visually impaired individuals to navigate their surroundings more effectively.  An example of this is Google Lens photo processing technology that can analyse the photo on the device using vision algorithms.  It identifies various objects that have been caught by the camera of the device and then displays the relevant information on the screen.

See how Google Lens helps you search what you see

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

NLP technologies powered by AI facilitate communication and accessibility for people with speech and language disabilities. Speech recognition can convert spoken words into written text, enabling individuals with speech impairments to communicate effectively using text or synthesized speech.  Google’s Project Euphonia, part of the company’s AI for Social Good programme is exploring ways to improve speech recognition for people who are deaf or have neurological conditions.  See a video of Google’s Project Euphonia

Cognitive Assistance

AI can provide cognitive support to individuals with cognitive disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorders or attention deficit disorders. AI powered personal assistants like Siri or Alexa can help people with memory or organisational challenges in their daily activities by providing reminders, schedules, and other helpful information.  AI chatbots can be designed to be extra patient and empathetic making them great for people with social challenges such as Pi, your personal AI

Smart Home Integration

AI-powered smart home systems can be integrated with assistive technology, creating environments that adapt to an individual’s needs. Voice assistants equipped with AI can control various home automation devices, enabling individuals with disabilities to operate lights, appliances, and security systems using voice commands.  AI helps a device to understand commands or for example, learn a user’s schedule or preferences for a smart home thermostat and adjust the temperature accordingly.

Prosthetics and Mobility Aids

AI is advancing prosthetic limbs and mobility aids by enabling more intuitive and natural control mechanisms. Machine learning algorithms can analyze sensor data from prosthetics, learning user patterns and adapting their functionality accordingly. This enables prosthetic limbs to mimic human-like movements and respond to user intentions in real time. AI is being used to give prosthetic arms the autonomy to perform actions such as finger movement.

For example, the video below shows a prosthetic hand that uses computer vision to identify the object that it’s about to grasp and adjusts the grip without manual intervention from the user.

AI in assistive technology is an ongoing field of research and development, and we can expect many exciting advancements in the future. These advancements promise to further enhance the independence, inclusivity, and empowerment of individuals with disabilities.

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