Microsoft launches $25 million program to help differently-abled people using AI technology

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May 9, 2018
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The tech giant, Microsoft, just launched a $25 million initiative to use artificial intelligence(AI) to build better technology for people with disabilities. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, announced the new program by the name of “AI for Accessibility” as he addressed the Microsoft’s annual conference for software developers.

This initiative by Microsoft is a five-year accessibility plan which will include seed grants for startups, nonprofit organizations, and academic researchers, as well as deeper investments and expertise from Microsoft researchers. The company hopes to empower people by accelerating the development of AI tools that provide them with more opportunities for independence and employment.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said,

“It may be an accessibility need relating to vision or deafness or to something like autism or dyslexia. There are about a billion people on the planet who have some kind of disability, either permanent or temporary. Those people already have huge potential, but technology can help them accomplish even more.

The company is already experimenting with its own accessibility tools, such as a “Seeing AI” free smartphone app using computer vision and narration to help people navigate if they’re blind or have low vision. Microsoft’s translation tool also provides deaf users with real-time captioning of conversations.

Nick McQuire, an analyst also said,

“People with disabilities are often overlooked when it comes to technology advances, but Microsoft sees this as a key area to address concerns over the technology and competes against Google, Amazon, and IBM.”

Microsoft will get these startups excited about building tools for people with disabilities, both for the social good and for their large market potential. Other key announcements at the Build conference included partnerships with drone company DJI and chipmaker Qualcomm. Over 6,000 people attended the conference, most of them were developers who build apps for Microsoft’s products.

Microsoft Build conference was being held in Seattle. It means to foster enthusiasm for the company’s latest ventures in internet-connected devices, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality. The company plans to compete with Amazon and Google to offer Internet-connected services to businesses as well as organizations.

This an opportunity for Microsoft to emphasize its philosophy of building AI for social good. The company focuses to help counter some of the privacy and ethical concerns that have been raised over AI and other fast-developing technology.

 
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