Such tasks as calling a taxi or making an appointment with a doctor are just routine for the majority of us. But for people with disabilities, they can become a real challenge. And here is when such technology as Artificial Intelligence can (and should) enter the game.
SwissCognitive Guest Blogger: Artem Pochechuev, Head of Data Science at Sigli – “How AI-Powered Solutions Can Change the Lives of People with Disabilities”
We’d like to demonstrate that AI can be much more than just another tool that can enhance and streamline a lot of business processes or support companies in reaching an absolutely new level of their productivity. It can also greatly change the lives of many people and make everyday tasks as simple as possible. And from many perspectives, the latter case can be viewed as even more revolutionary than the first one.
Why does it matter?
You may ask us why we believe that this topic deserves so much attention and whether our opinion is based only on the emotional aspect. But we already have an answer that is fully based on the recent statistical data.
The world desperately needs reliable solutions that will help a great part of the population to socialize and live independently (or at least minimize their dependence on assistance from other people). And to fully realize it, it is necessary to have a look at the following figures.
- Around 15% of the population, or estimated 1 billion people, live with disabilities.
- According to the data published by the World Health Organization, as of 2022, at least 2.2 billion people have vision impairment of different severity.
- As for hearing impairment, at the current moment, over 1.5 billion people all over the world are affected by hearing loss in at least one ear. Nearly 13% of adults have hearing difficulty even when using a hearing aid.
- Nearly 20 percent of the world’s population has dyslexia which is the most common of all neuro-cognitive disorders.
- Nearly 1 billion people have a mental disorder.
Let’s admit that these figures look quite impressive. Very often we can’t even imagine how many people suffer from different types of diseases and impairments that make them experience restrictions and limitations even in the simplest everyday processes.
With the development and adoption of AI-powered solutions, every person will have the possibility to live in a world where his or her needs are well-understood and taken into account. And we can’t miss this chance and just ignore the possibilities that are provided to us by artificial intelligence.
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Solutions that can fully change the game
To better understand the importance of such solutions you need to think about the inconveniences that people with impairments face every day.
Let’s start with the solutions that are already available to a wide audience, for example, virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa. Without any doubt, people who do not have any health problems also can benefit from using them. But in their case, that’s the question of comfort. Nevertheless, in the case of people with disabilities, it can become a must.
Many of us ask Siri to Google something for us just because we are busy (or lazy). People with visual impairments can do it because they do not want to ask their relatives to find and read something to them. The same principle works even with standard phone functions like calls and messages. Speech recognition, text-to-speech, and speech-to-text features are real game changers. Thanks to virtual assistants, people with partial and complete vision loss can use smartphones (not only button cell phones) as now they can ask AI-powered tools to dial a number or send a message.
But the AI-powered interaction with smartphones is only one of the examples of how artificial intelligence changes the way people can manage and operate various devices. The integration of AI into smart home systems can also brightly demonstrate the power of this technology.
Smart speakers in such systems can become key elements. They can fulfill a lot of tasks based on voice commands (switch on an oven or turn down music), provide recommendations (for example, they can inform when there is enough natural light but all the lamps in the room are still on), and create various scenarios based on the user’s preferences (temperature, lighting, music. etc.). From one perspective, all these features may seem to be redundant. But let’s have a look at them from the perspective of people with limited mobility. It may be difficult for them to go from one room to another in order to check whether their lamps or devices are not consuming too much energy during the day when they do not need them. And AI can do it for them.
Moreover, AI-powered solutions can be enriched with image-recognition functionality. When can it be required at home? When we open a refrigerator, we typically never know where some products are placed and need to start looking for them. But in the case of people with low vision, this task can cause a lot of difficulties. Nevertheless, with a mobile app that will have access to the camera and image-recognition functionality, it will be incomparably easier. A user will need to open this app, point the camera at the shelves, and the app will voice where different products are placed. Similar solutions can also help to read “best before” dates.
Some startups are working even on more advanced devices – AI-powered doorbells enriched with smart cameras. Such devices can “look at” visitors who are standing at the doorbell, recognize them based on the uploaded pictures, and notify users. After getting this information, users can make a decision about whether they want to let such visitors in. Such tech products can greatly enhance the security of people with vision loss, especially of those who live alone.
But now you may ask us whether artificial intelligence can help people only at home. And based on the examples that we’ve mentioned above, the question is absolutely logical. No worries! AI can also greatly increase people’s mobility and boost their integration into society as well.
Already today there are special navigation apps built for users with vision impairments which can fully or partially replace guide dogs. These applications are powered by not only GPS (like standard navigation systems) but also AI tech. Such apps can create routes based on the current traffic, weather, and other conditions and voice detailed instructions for people who can’t read them or use maps on their own. These navigation systems should be much more precise and advanced than traditional apps of this type. They should take into account a lot of external factors in real-time, including possible threats and barriers, and give users highly accurate instructions.
With various apps tailored to the needs of people who have mutism (muteness) or hearing disorders and can’t talk, users can better communicate and share their thoughts with others. They can type their ideas or choose any of the ready-made scripts uploaded to the app, and it will transform the text into speech and voice their ideas instead of them.
Moreover, there are medical cases when hearing aids can’t help people. And here is when a solution that can transform speech into text will be a supportive tool for communication. As a result, people, regardless of their disorders, can feel that they are full-scale participants in any discussion or dialogue.
It’s important to understand that all these examples are only a small part of all possible solutions that can be built for people with disabilities. AI-powered products help them start believing in their forces and their abilities to become a part of society without any restrictions caused by their diseases.
Despite the fact that today there are a lot of talks about artificial intelligence and it may seem that everyone is already aware of the capacities of such solutions, there are still a lot of gaps here. And there is still a lot of work to do for making sure that the potential of AI is clear to society. With the introduction of ChatGPT and all the hype around it, a lot of people have a wrong understanding that such language models can be viewed as the main use case of AI. But such chatbots that can answer your questions, create posts for your Instagram, or compose a plan for an English lesson are only one category of applications that can be powered by artificial intelligence and used in our everyday life.
In reality, AI can offer much more opportunities.
And that’s exactly what we are going to prove in our series of articles devoted to AI-powered solutions for people with disabilities. Stay tuned if you want to know how artificial intelligence can help millions of people to easily cope with a row of tasks that currently may be a real challenge for them.
About the Author:
In his current position, Artem Pochechuev leads a team of talented engineers. Oversees the development and implementation of data-driven solutions for Sigli’s customers. He is passionate about using the latest technologies and techniques in data science to deliver innovative solutions that drive business value. Outside of work, Artem enjoys cooking, ice-skating, playing piano, and spending time with his family.