Post Menu and Details.
- Eye Gaze Technology
- Artificial Intelligence for Blind, Deaf, and Physically Disabled Users
- Smart Cameras
- Self-Stabilizing Cutlery
- Google’s Live Transcribe and Sound Notifications App
Reading time: ~5 minutes
Around 15% of the world’s population is disabled, reports the World Bank, with one-fifth of the estimated global total experiencing significant disabilities – including those involving sight, hearing, and mobility. Orthopedic and neuromuscular impairments like cerebral palsy, paralysis, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and more, can cause millions to need a wheelchair while around 13 million people require assistance from others from everyday tasks. As stated by WHO official, Margaret Chan, “Almost every one of us will be permanently or temporarily disabled at some point in life.” It is reassuring to know that the tech industry is stepping up, with many recent innovations making life easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable for people with special needs.
Eye Gaze Technology
Around half a million children and adults in the U.S. manifest one or more symptoms of cerebral palsy (CP), defined by the CDC as “a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.” CP affects people in different ways, with some requiring a wheelchair in order to move. There are various cerebral palsy therapies designed for different symptoms of this group of disorders. These include physical, occupational, and speech and language therapy. If CP affects a part of the brain that controls speech, a person may have difficulty speaking or they may not be able to talk at all. In steps Eye Gaze – a large, hands-free tablet that allows people with CP to communicate what they want to via their eyes. Through this technology, users can turn on devices, complete work tasks, or give messages to loved ones. When they look at a key on their screen for a specific amount of time, the device interprets their gaze as though they had clicked on the key.
Exoskeletons for People with Impaired Mobility
Exoskeletons may one day replace wheelchairs and currently, they are already being used extensively in rehabilitation sessions to help people with mobility impairments complete exercises and get from point A to B. Ekso Bionics in particular has been making big strides in exoskeleton technology over the past 15 years, helping people improve endurance and giving hope to people who are paralysed or spending most of their time in a wheelchair owing to injuries, stroke, and other issues. The device helps people increase their range of motion, activates muscular activity, improves the wearer’s gait and more.
Artificial Intelligence for Blind, Deaf, and Physically Disabled Users
New devices utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) technology are making it easier for people with disabilities to do everything from receive emails to navigate a computer. For deaf people or those with hearing difficulties, an AI app called Ava instantly transcribes conversations undertaken by a group of people, adding punctuation and indicating the identity of the person speaking. In this day and age of remote working, it is easy to see how this app can be invaluable for deaf people attending virtual meetings. AI is also used to help children with neuromuscular disorders. The company Marsi Bionics has created a paediatric ‘exoskeleton’ with artificial muscles that uses sensors and artificial intelligence to understand the movement intention of children with conditions such as CP, SCI, and neuromuscular diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy. The exoskeleton is an excellent way to motivate children to exercise.
A Helmet for the Blind
Chinese organization, CloudMinds has created a helmet (similar in shape to a bike riding helmet) that contains a plethora of sensors and cameras that provide AI-elicited information to users via speech. This enables wearers to know more about their surroundings – including traffic lights, zebra crossings, and objects in the way. The helmet is also capable of reading electricity meters, texts, and signs and it can recognize faces as well. The latter is a handy function indeed that can be used by sighted people as well for conferences, networking events, and other occasions in which it can be handy to remember who one has spoken to.
CES’ Best of Innovation Award 2021 went to a handheld device called OrCam Read, which is able to read text from any printed or digital screen. It is a handy tool for people who are blind, as well as those who have visual difficulties and reading difficulties such as dyslexia. Indeed, it can also be used by people who wish to give their eyes a rest and listen to an article, book, or other text being read out to them while they are relaxing or even working on other tasks. The device does not require Internet connectivity and can read whole pages, unlike other devices which require scanning on a word-by-word basis.
Over 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease and for these people, eating can be a real difficulty owing to hand tremors. Liftware is a self-stabilizing handle that attaches to forks, spoons, and other types of cutlery, stabilizing up to 70% of the hand’s usual movement so that people with tremors can eat comfortably without their food spilling. The handle comes with its own charger as well as dedicated cutlery and each charge lasts for various meals, making it a handy device to bring along when dining out. Cutlery holders are just one of many weighted items designed for people with Parkinson’s disease. Others include universal holders for toothbrushes, combs and brushes, razors, and more.
Google’s Live Transcribe and Sound Notifications App
This handy app allows people with hearing disabilities to fully understand the conversation taking place around them. It essentially transcribed voices picked up by your smartphone’s mic into text in a speedy and easy-to-read manner. The app can also detect emergency information – including the sounds of crying babies, sirens, alarms, and more. It also makes your phone vibrate when someone says your name, making it easy to feel like part of a group. You can also receive important notifications via flashing lights or vibrations and the app works with some wearable devices as well as smartphones. If you’re travelling, don’t worry. This app enables you to choose from over 80 different languages and dialects and is capable of adding custom words that you use frequently.
New innovations in technology are enabling people with disabilities to lead fuller lives. From exoskeletons that move according to a child’s intention to smart cameras that can instantly read newspapers, menus, or indeed any type of text, there are a plethora of recent launches catered for specific users. Cutting-edge helmets, for instance, are helping the blind see while exoskeletons are a great aid for people with mobility issues. AI, meanwhile, is enabling employees from across the globe to adapt to remote work via apps like Ava, which transcribe conversations in real-time. Google’s Live Transcribe and Sound Notifications app is a big boon to hearing-impaired individuals that wish to join in on group conversations. Finally, smaller devices like Liftware (which reduces hand movement for people with Parkinson’s when they are dining) can help people enjoy their meals without worrying about spillage.
Thank you for reading!