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$25mn Microsoft AI Initiative to Empower People with Disabilities

Only one in 10 people with disabilities globally has access to assistive technologies and products

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The logo of Microsoft
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Harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help people with disabilities, Microsoft has announced “AI for Accessibility” — a new $25 million, five-year programme for developers globally including in India.

The programme will put AI tools in the hands of developers to accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions for people with disabilities.

“It is important for us to figure out how to empower more people. It has been a personal passion of mine to help people suffering with disabilities like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and autism,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told the gathering at “Build 2018,” the company’s annual developers’ conference here on Monday.

Also Read: Microsoft Partners With China Based DJI, World’s Largest Drone Company

“AI for Accessibility is a grand programme for the researchers, NGOs and developers — providing them with platform technologies so that they can help over one billion people with disabilities,” Nadella added.

Only one in 10 people with disabilities globally has access to assistive technologies and products.

Microsoft
Microsoft. (Wikimedia commons)

Meanwhile, several Microsoft applications are currently helping people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing with real-time captioning of conversations.

In India, students are creating AI and Machine Learning (ML)-based apps with the help from Microsoft.

“Practikality” app, developed by Amity International School, Gurugram, is one such ML-based assistant to help the differently-abled communicate efficiently.

“It is very interesting to see that students are applying the AI technology in different ways in several use cases, helping us in industries like healthcare and education,” Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India, recently told IANS.

The tech giant last year hosted its first “Accessibility Summit” in India.

The summit featured unique technology-based projects that empower people with disabilities. These included innovations from non-profit organisations, assistive technologies developed by partners as well as Microsoft solutions.

The “AI for Accessibility” programme will be run by Microsoft Accessibility team and its leader Jenny Lay-Flurrie who is Chief Accessibility Officer.

Microsoft's building.
The office building of Microsoft. Pixabay

“By making AI solutions more widely available, we believe technology can have a broad impact on this important community,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith.

“AI advances like these offer enormous potential by enabling people with vision, hearing, cognitive, learning, mobility disabilities and mental health conditions do more in three specific scenarios: employment, modern life and human connection,” Smith reiterated.

To begin with, the programme will provide seed grants of technology to developers, universities, non-governmental organisations and inventors.

“Next, we will identify the projects that show the most promise and make larger investments of technology and access to Microsoft AI experts to help bring them to scale.

Also Read: AI- Powered Microsoft 365 Business Tool to Protect SMBs

“Thirdly, as we infuse AI and inclusive design across our offerings, we will help our partners incorporate AI innovations into platform level services to empower others to maximise the accessibility of their offerings,” Smith informed.

Helpicto, an application that turns voice commands into images, is enabling children in France with autism to better understand situations and communicate with others.

“Seeing AI” and auto alt-text features are helping narrate the world for people who are blind or low vision.

Microsoft last year introduced “AI for Earth” — a comprehensive programme to apply AI towards unlocking solutions to climate, water, agriculture and the biodiversity issues. (IANS)

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Microsoft Introduces ‘Surface Hub 2’ for Modern Workplaces

The new device is on Windows 10 and its "multi-user sign in" feature will allow many people to log into it using the built-in fingerprint sensor

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Microsoft Introduces 'Surface Hub 2' for Modern Workplaces
Microsoft Introduces 'Surface Hub 2' for Modern Workplaces. Wikimedia Commons

Microsoft has unveiled its next-gen workplace “Surface Hub 2” that will help people collaborate and work together irrespective of their locations.

The new Surface Hub 2 comes with 4K+ resolution and 50.5-inch multi-touch display to co-create, harnessing the power of Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Whiteboard, Office 365, Windows 10 and the intelligent Cloud.

“The 4K cameras that rotate with the device, integrated speakers and far field mic arrays allow everyone in the meeting to feel as if they are right in the room with the rest of the group,” Panas Panay, Chief Product Officer at Microsoft, said in a blog post on Tuesday.

Also Read: Microsoft’s Search Engine Bing Bans Cryptocurrency Advertisements

“We’ve sold to more than 5,000 customers across 25 markets. Over half of Fortune 100 companies have purchased Surface Hubs to improve team’s efficiency and how they collaborate – breaking down barriers and creating real business value,” Panay informed.

“In 2018, we will begin to test Surface Hub 2 with select commercial customers. It will be available for purchase in 2019,” he added.

 

The logo of Microsoft
Representational image. Pixabay

The new device is on Windows 10 and its “multi-user sign in” feature will allow many people to log into it using the built-in fingerprint sensor.

Additionally, “Surface Hub 2” will come with options like “Tiling,” that would display multiple pieces of content side-by-side, Microsoft Whiteboard, Office 365, 4K cameras, integrated speakers and far field mic.

Microsoft’s “Surface Hub” was introduced in 2016 in two sizes, 55 and 84-inches with 4K resolution at $8,999 and $21,999, respectively. (IANS)