Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Modern Assistive Technology

Accessibility & Assistive Technology , Blog Nov 19, 2017 2 Comments
Artificial Intelligence for People with Disabilities

When it comes to Assistive Technology (AT), over the past decade, a large number of individuals as well as companies have come up with some incredibly life altering equipment and technological gizmos that are aimed not only to make life of an average individual a little simpler and faster, but also to help individuals with varying spectrum of disabilities. On the smaller scale of things, there have been small equipment like visually controlled monitors, voice operators and smart watches, but as the world is progressing and science is making tremendous leaps every second of every day, more and more homes and environments are incorporating Artificial Intelligence into their settings to make AT much easier and friendlier.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

As the name suggests, it is a synthetically generated Intelligence mode, and since it is synthetically generated, it is termed as “Artificial”. Simply put, it is the making of a computer or a robot which functions like a human being. If you have seen “Age of Ultron”, then you get the idea. The basic principle is to create a robot or a machine, like Ultron, but minus the destructive tendencies, and one which can actually help in accomplishing something.

In all seriousness, Artificial Intelligence has come a long way, and today it can process individual processes of information, readily accept any and all modifications, and put them together to solve a much bigger problem. Consequently, it can be made to evolve without altering with its basic structure. Think of it like playing chess. Every time that you play chess with a computer, you are playing against an AI, and every time you make a move, it accepts that information, processes it fast and makes a counter move based on the best possible outcome.

How Can Artificial Intelligence be Used in AT?

In the most popular use of Artificial Technology, robots are used to help people with various kinds of disabilities in every sphere of life. When it comes to robots, home robots are preferred especially for individuals who live alone. These robots, also known as home robots are always customized according to the needs and disabilities of the individual so that both human and the AI are more in sync with one another, allowing for a better life. For instance, any basic home robot for the elderly will have certain features like being able to make emergency phone calls in case of a medical emergency, or prerecording important dates and appointments and letting the user know of them. Some robots are even on the advanced side and can control all of the electronic equipment in the household. However, recently questions have been raised regarding all of the personal individual that a single home robot is allowed to store about an individual and possible loss of such private information into the public domain of the manufacturing companies.

For instance, one of the latest and quite popular invention is a home robot called Obi. Designed by Desin, it is a robot aimed to help people with disabilities to feed themselves. Specifically, it has four bowls that can adjust to the amount of food as well as a robot arm which is highly sensitive that can scoop the food from the bowls and feed I to the person, after the location has been initially shown to it by a caretaker.

Artificial Intelligence Robots are Being Used in Schools all Across the World

Although the statistics of children with learning disabilities and the Autistic Spectrum is not specific, it goes without saying that it is extremely difficult for such individuals to assimilate themselves in a class with otherwise well-abled and well-bodied children and progress at the normal rate. They need special schools, but at the same time, there is a sever lack of structure and manpower to provide all of the assistance and help that such kids need. This is where the Artificial Intelligence robots come in handy.

More and more special needs school and educational institutes are incorporating robots and other forms of Artificial Intelligence to help such special needs children. Not only does the AI modify itself according to the collective consciousness of the class and the individual needs of the children, but most of such interactions also provide a platform that allows for more opportunities in many more other schools across the world. Also, certain studies have shown that children with autism, who suffer from anxiety, work better in an environment which has limited human presence but has robots that mime humans. Some studies have led to the conclusion that autistic children have an easier and faster time miming the actions of robots rather than humans. Of course, this has opened up a wide range of possibilities and experts believe that at a certain point, all of this can be used to teach children with learning disabilities the various social cues so as to help them assimilate better into their everyday environment.

Where does that leave Artificial Intelligence today?

Today, the aim of Artificial Intelligence is to allow for individuals with disabilities to lead a better, simpler and more independent life. This in itself comes with a huge set of fundamental requirements – making the assistant robots more in tuned with the needs and demands of the individual that they are paired with, privacy to store all of their information, and of course, cost being one of the major factors. Currently, most home environment as well as classroom robotics are a little on the expensive side, but with the speed with which the world Artificial Intelligence is progressing, it does not take a lot to guess that in the future, with a progressive increase in the demand for such more all-around AI, the production will increase, leading to a bloom in the IT world, and hopefully it will become more affordable on an individual basis. Of course, there is still room for more development since the AI that has been developed so far, has been completely dependent on mimicking humans.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: How Artificial Intelligence is Improving Assistive Technology - The Tech Edvocate

    • Thanks for citing my article on your blog post 🙂

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Achraf Othman

Dr. Achraf is a senior research specialist in Accessibility and Assistive Technology for People with disabilities and Machine Translation and Machine Learning.