The world has made significant strides in ensuring society is more inclusive of people with disabilities in terms of building accessibility and design. Microsoft aims to bridge this gap even further through artificial intelligence (AI). The Redmond-based company will invest $25 million in the next 5 years into their program named AI for Accessibility, which focuses on developing technology for people with permanent, temporary or situational disabilities. The new technology will be able to help disabled people in three key areas including employment, human connection, and modern life. The program will give grants to universities, developers, nongovernmental organizations and other groups that are developing technology concentrating on benefiting individuals with disabilities.
Like Microsoft, companies all over the world are introducing assistive technologies that incorporate AI. Rexona, based in Pakistan, is tackling the issue of mobility for disabled people in Jakarta using artificial intelligence. The company built a voice-activated mobility assistant application called Gerak, powered by Google, that allows users to know which accessible places they should go to in advance based on their needs, as well as how to get there. In Italy, the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation partnered with the Italian Institute of Technology for the application of AI robots which will be programmed to provide care and rehabilitation to vulnerable groups such as the elderly.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 15% of the global population lives with a disability as of 2017. The assistive technologies sector is expected to be valued at over $26 billion by 2024 according to Forbes. Of the top ten most innovative states in the U.S., Washington is ranked 3rd according to a study by WalletHub (2018). A growing hub for AI research and development, the Greater Seattle region has also been ranked the 2nd best city for tech talent by CBRE in their annual Scoring Tech Talent report for 2017.
Read more about the AI sector in the TDA blog!