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Artificial Intelligence Everywhere!


Artificial Intelligence Taking the World by Storm

Everywhere I look companies are talking about artificial intelligence (AI) and the power to simplify processes. With companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft pushing the movement forward is there any wonder that academics such as Stephen Hawking and Big tech players such as Elon Musk have voiced their concerns that AI may one day be beyond human control? Whist I am mindful of such concerns, for me, I feel it is important to keep an eye on the movement and at the same time seek the opportunity and identify the various blends into the mechanics of assistive technology which will provide much-needed support for disabled people in employment or at home.

Over the past six months or so I have witnessed an appetite for organisations to employ more disabled people and at a recent keynote speech by the Minister of Disabled People, Sarah Newton; suggested that funding is available for technology to support people in the workplace. Access to Work is now able to contribute up to £10,000 for technology which starts to level the playing field. However, £10,000 does seem like a rather large sum of money which may not always be necessary, so the skill of the assessor is crucial for the following reasons:

  1. To ensure the right solution is identified
  2. To ensure the solution is implemented seamlessly
  3. Ensure the government has not wasted money.

I recently witnessed the outcome of a workplace assessment where the solution was a shiny £3k tablet, only it did not come with any supported training.  The equipment currently remains in the box until appropriate training is sourced, which creates frustration for the individual involved.

I do feel that assessments need tweaking slightly and by following the three steps listed above is not a bad place to start. We want to ensure disabled people have the necessary technology to support aspiration and not be disabled by the solution provided. Perhaps AI could provide the training,  which may, in turn, cut down costs for the government?

I digressed slightly there but to bring you back on point, the original purpose of this post was to try and see what benefits AI can have for disabled people.  I am encouraged by organisations such as Microsoft who have announced a $25m investment which will fund ways to leverage AI to the benefit of those with disabilities. Current statistics state that only 1 in 10 disabled people have access to assistive technologies and a big push over the next five years from Microsoft is to look how to change that with a specific message that they want to help people with disabilities. I will have a keen eye on how this progresses.

Now to conclude and I would like to mention three ways in which AI is currently used in technology that we may already take for granted and can support disabled people

  1. AI in vacuum cleaners not only can be set to vacuum your home at specific times of day, but they are also now equipped with a laser-powered vision that builds a map of surroundings and updates, so every part of your home is cleaned.
  2. I stumbled across a device called Viaroom Home that is pitched as self-learning hands-free automation. It is powered with AI and anticipates your daily tasks, continuously learning habits and smoothly automates routines! A great little feature might be if you have a smart lock and forget to lock the door, this device would do that for you. Link that up with the vacuum, and you can come home to a lovely clean home every day! You can read more about Viaroom here
  3. Finally, AI is supporting us every day, in ways that are embedded into our cultural norm. A lot of us use Siri or other voice assistants like second nature now although granted there are still a few niggles to iron out! Something I often find strange when I make an irregular credit card purchase and the fraud team does not call, but then when something quite ordinary is purchased I do!

The benefits of AI are clear and provided that the technology is managed both appropriately and ethically it can make a huge difference in the life of disabled people.  I think we can all be very excited at what the future is going to look like.