Out of the many tech companies out there today, Microsoft is one of the few that seems to be publicly looking at ways to improve the accessibility of its products to make it more usable for people with disabilities. For example, the company launched the Xbox Adaptive Controller last year designed for people with disabilities.
A recent patent had also revealed that the company was exploring the idea of introducing braille readouts to its Xbox controller. Fast forward to today, which is also the Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Microsoft has announced that for the second year in a row, the company will be looking to invest as much as $25 million towards AI projects that will help with accessibility.
According to Microsoft, there are a total of seven grantees of this investment, which includes, University of California, Berkeley; Massachusetts Eye and Ear, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School; Voiceitt in Israel; Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom; University of Sydney in Australia; Pison Technology of Boston; and Our Ability, of Glenmont, New York.
The projects undertaken by these groups include a variety of devices designed for those with disabilities. For example, one of the projects will be a nerve-sensing wristband that detects micro-movements and translates them into mouse clicks. Another example is a wearable cap that can read EG data and sends it to the cloud to provide warnings about seizures and other alerts.
According to Microsoft’s Senior Accessibility Architect Mary Bellard, “What stands out the most about this round of grantees is how so many of them are taking standard AI capabilities, like a chatbot or data collection, and truly revolutionizing the value of technology.”