Tuesday January 22, 2019
Home Lead Story $25mn Microso...

$25mn Microsoft AI Initiative to Empower People with Disabilities

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

0
//
Microsoft
Microsoft's beta Android launcher has digital health feature. Pixabay

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)

Next Story

Microsoft Lays AI Sensors for Smart Farming, Cutting-edge Healthcare in India

"The role of AI will only get bigger for both agriculture and healthcare sectors in India. The seeds are now sown," Maheshwari added

0
Microsoft
Logo of Microsoft outside it's office. Pixabay

China, the world’s biggest agricultural producer, is leading the race when it comes to empowering farmers with Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven technologies.

The aim is clear: To help the community digitally record information to cut costs and increase yields — with just a smartphone in their hands as AI leveraged Cloud computing to make sense of the data for farmers.

India has now embarked on a journey to bring AI sensors into the fields.

For Anant Maheshwari, the company’s India President, Microsoft has begun empowering small-holder farmers in India to increase their income through higher crop yield and greater price control.

“We are working with farmers, state governments, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare to create an ecosystem for AI into farming,” Maheshwari told IANS.

In some villages in Telangana, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, farmers are receiving automated voice calls that tell them whether their cotton crops are at risk of a pest attack, based on weather conditions and crop stage.

“There are companies that serve equipments and capabilities for farmers. We are working with most of the stakeholders, like generic crop protection and seeds company United Phosphorus Ltd and engineering conglomerate Escorts, to create better AI-based models for farming in the country,” informed Maheshwari.

With United Phosphorus, Microsoft is working on providing front-end capabilities for farmers.

Escorts is working with Microsoft for its Cloud and AI technology enabling precision agriculture capabilities to help farmers make informed decisions and get more from their farms.

In collaboration with the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Microsoft has developed an AI-Sowing App powered by Cortana Intelligence Suite including Machine Learning and Power BI.

The app sends sowing advisories to participating farmers on the optimal date to sow. The farmers don’t need to install any sensors in their fields or incur any capital expenditure. All they need is a feature phone capable of receiving text messages.

Representational image.
Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

After laying the initial infrastructure for smart agriculture, Microsoft has also taken further steps towards cutting-edge health care with the help from AI-based “Intelligent Cloud” and “Intelligent Edge”.

Nearly three million heart attacks happen in India every year and 30 million Indians suffer from coronary diseases.

In a novel effort to predict the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) among the Indian population, Microsoft India and Apollo Hospitals have launched the first-ever AI-powered heart disease risk score API (application programme interface).

It provides the capability of applying ML and AI to cardio-vascular health records to develop an Indian-specific heart risk score.

With the new heart risk score for India, Apollo Hospitals’ AI model helps gauge a patient’s risk for heart disease and provides rich insights to doctors on treatment plans and early diagnosis.

“This shows how AI-driven models can make a big difference and help the doctors in a country where health care needs.

Also Read- Apple Reselling iPhone SE Devices in US

The company has also applied AI to devices for early detection of diabetic retinopathy to prevent blindness.Microsoft India also announced a partnership with SRL Diagnostics to expand the “AI Network for Healthcare” to pathology to detect cancer.

Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairman and Executive Director of Narayana Health, has performed over 15,000 heart operations. His hospital chain does one-sixth of heart surgeries in India.

“His hospital chain is working on Kaizala app, Power BI and Azure to run the operation smoothly.

“Dr Shetty aims to put all electronic health records on Kaizala for real-time data analysis. This gives a doctor full information about a patient and his past,” said Maheshwari.

In October, NITI Aayog entered into a partnership with Microsoft to deploy AI technologies in areas such as agriculture, healthcare, natural language computing and sustainable environment.

“The role of AI will only get bigger for both agriculture and healthcare sectors in India. The seeds are now sown,” Maheshwari added. (IANS)