Technology has become part of each person’s lifestyle. From everyday communication to working, we are surrounded by technology and innovations. These machines or gadgets have made our lives more convenient. However, there are some people who saw the potential of technology to make this world a better place.
This is a list of some of the technology that has made a bigger impact and importance to people’s lives.
Machine Learning refers to developing computer programs centered on machines autonomously processing and adjusting data without human intervention as if it were a human brain. A machine feeds on a huge amount of data and then it identifies patterns and makes predictions based on those findings. Aside from AI, machine learning is also being used by financial service providers to detect fraud and to spot data trend, and by the medical field to identify possible health risks and treatment suggestions. The potential of machine learning is endless, especially for innovations dealing with disabilities. The following innovations have used machine learning to aid the hearing-impaired, and autistic.
Click the “CC” button and try out YouTube’s live caption with Cloud Employee’s How We Work video.
Ten years after its conception, YouTube automatic captions have aided hearing-impaired people to comfortably watch a video. According to YouTube’s statistics, people use automatic captions 15 million times per day making the caption useful. YouTube in partnership with Sound Understanding and Accessibility teams strive to put sound effects into words such as “[LAUGHTER]”, “[MUSIC]”, and “[APPLAUSE]” to better capture the context of a video. Since its release, YouTube has improved its live captioning to a 50% accuracy, and have added more sound effects. It’s a simple feature added for a better video content experience.
Content Clarifier is a powerful tool developed by IBM Accessibility Research combining machine learning, natural language processing, and cognitive technologies to guide people with cognitive disabilities, the elderly, and people learning the English language. The system works by collecting a long and complex body of source content and then filtering nonessential information until a simpler, more understandable text or illustration is presented.
Able To Include aims to improve the lifestyle of people with cognitive disabilities by creating and testing software aiding them. Led by University of Leuven researcher Ineke Schuurman, the project’s main focus is developing and improving a context-aware Accessibility Layer that integrates with tech tools to improve their lifestyle. They also offer the following services: Text to picture and picture to text, text simplification, and text to speech. These technologies are integrated as apps with social media platforms such as Facebook, and with Gmail. The project has also developed a chatting app, a social media, and email tailored for the intellectually impaired. According to Schuurman, “People with intellectual abilities, or any disability, want to do what their friends and sisters and brothers do—use smartphones, tablets, and social networking.”
Okushin System, a small website design company in Osaka, has developed SPIS, a software aimed to identify problems and monitor the condition of its mentally disabled staff. Company President Manabu Okuwaki promotes hiring workers despite their mental disabilities. Due to this company policy, he found that these types of workers conditions tend to change in an immediate and drastic way, thus the beginning of the software.
SPIS is easy to use. Employees answer a series of questions answerable by a four-point scale from “good” to “bad”. This daily log helps keep track of their condition to prevent any potential problems to arise. Based on the gathered data, managers adjust the workload if an employee shows signs of physical or emotional changes. According to The Japan Times, psychiatrists have already taken interest in the software saying it could help prevent a person’s mental illness from worsening.
Since 2013, subsidized business projects using SPIS have undertaken in the Osaka Prefectural Government and other municipalities. Roughly 70 companies, mainly from the Kinki region, have already introduced SPIS. A survey of people who used SPIS for three years revealed that 80% of the workers remained at their jobs 18 months after using it, proving its effectivity.
Though there are still only a few apps that cater to accessibility in the market, there are a select few who have proved to become useful. Smartphones are portable enough to be used and carried by the impaired making it convenient and beneficial for them to go on with their everyday tasks.
Here is a list of apps that aid the disabled:
- Be My Eyes (iOS, Android)
Volunteer and lend your eyes to the blind by helping them with simple to challenging tasks via video call. Launched in 2015, Be My Eyes has since gathered over half a million users across 150 countries making it the largest online community for the blind and visually impaired. It currently has an app rating of 4.8 in iOS, and 4.9 in Android backed up with positive reviews from both its users and volunteers. This free app proves that a simple act of kindness goes a long way.
Magnify that fine print or read a sign from afar with this free app. Its live image stabilization capability also removes shaking when something is magnified thus showing a clearer image. It currently has a 4.8 rating in iOS, and 3.9 rating in Android.
Allows the color blind to see the world in full color through their smartphones. The app can name the specific color of an object, and can also check your color vision. The app also allows its users to adjust the color settings, such as saturation, for a better color reading. Normally sighted people can also use the app to check how the color blind sees the world. With a 4.3 rating in Android and a 4.0 rating in iOS, the app proves to add color to the lives of its users.
Learn English Braille through this free app. The app is more for people with decreasing eyesight, or for people who want to learn Braille and to do Braille translation. It also contains games and exercises to help master Braille reading. Braille Helper is one of the very few Braille learning apps with a rating of 4.3 on Android.
Type what you’re saying without using your hands. Dragon Dictation converts speech to text with its live and accurate transcription software developed by Nuance Communications. It’s an easy-to-use app that can also be helpful for people with dexterity. Users can also edit documents via speech recognition.
See what he or she is saying with the first worldwide app that transcribes a phone call in real-time. The subtitles aim to help the deaf or the hearing-impaired to be able to receive calls by reading them.
Hear loud and clear with these free hearing aid apps. These app lets you hear better during a conversation, during a talk where the speaker is far away, or even when you need to lower down your television’s volume. This can prove useful for plenty of instances for anyone with or without a hearing impairment.
Study the American Sign Language using The ASL Coach for iOS, and Sign Language for Beginners for Android. The app gives a free and accessible alternative to studying sign language. Both apps teach the ASL alphabet and common words and phrases for everyday conversation. The app is convenient for both the hearing-impaired and their families and friends.
- Speech Assistant AAC (Android)
Communicate effectively with this text to speech app. This app was built to aid people with speech impairments such as aphasia, MND/ALS, stroke, autism, vocal cord problems, and other speech impairments.
Type better with this custom-designed keyboard aimed to help dyslexics. The keyboard is arranged in alphabetical and numerical order, compared to the standard QWERTY keyboard so dyslexics can find the letter or number when letters become jumbled.
- DyslexiaKey (iOS)
Message others with more confidence with this app that uses a distinct font specifically designed for dyslexics. The font used creates an illusion of a more identifiable alphabet for better and faster reading and typing.
Customize your keyboard for a better typing experience. This app does not necessarily cater to the disabled but it still helps people with dexterous hands by customizing the keyboard according to their needs.
- Avaz AAC Pro (iOS, Android)
Let every voice be heard with this learning app specially made for non-verbal children, or kids with autism. The app is designed for a more effective speech therapy by using images and sounds to say what’s on a child’s mind. It also has several other functions to help a child form better speech and written communication.
Improve your child’s social skills with this app by Samsung. The app was developed to help children make better eye contact, facial recognition, emotional expression. After a survey of 20 children using the app, results show that 60% of the respondents have improved eye contact in just 8 weeks.
Calm yourself with this relaxing app. Made by a developer with autism, the app was launched to decrease the sensory overload often experienced by people with autism. According to the developer’s experience, the lines, colors, and lights help in calming down. The app can also be used by anyone who needs to de-stress.
Technology has long been used to counter terrorism. Here are some instances when people or companies advance technology to combat terrorism.
Due to the spread and accessibility of the internet and social media, terrorists use these mediums to spread propaganda promoting terrorism through online videos. Dartmouth University professor Hany Farid claims to have built a software that can identify terrorist propaganda to remove jihadist content using a technique called “robust hashing.” This technique is “a well-known approach sharing characteristics of both cryptographic hashes and image identification methods.” To start off the project, terrorist-related images, videos, and audio recordings were all compiled in a database with the help of non-profit Counter Extremism Project. The software is yet to be made public. However, Farid is certain tech companies will want to sign up to the project.
Mid-2017, experiments have started inside a Berlin train station to test a facial recognition software that aims to recognize wanted criminals and terrorists and alert police officials. Live capture from CCTV cameras is constantly analyzing faces. This method has already received criticism from lawyers debating that it is an invasion of privacy to the public. However, these disapprovals were defended by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere declaring that public spaces must be safe. The tests will be done in a span of six months with 250 volunteers.
Tech Against Terrorism is a UN-mandated project protecting and preventing tech companies from the possible exploitation of their product or service from terrorists. Through practical capacity building and knowledge sharing, the project supports tech companies and aims to encourage the tech sector, tech companies, and the government to cooperate and improve industry-led self-regulation.
Mobile apps are now also being used to fight against terrorism. Two days before the Euro 2016 Football Tournament opens, the French Interior Ministry launches an app to alert users during a bombing, shooting, or disaster. The app was developed in response to the November 2015 terrorist attacks across Paris.
A similar app was also launched in Singapore last September of 2016. The Singapore Civil Defense Force launched a mobile app alerting its users during a terrorist attack or emergencies such as fire. The app also contains information on how to stay safe during an attack or emergency, and it can also be used to contact police officials.
The following apps, software, and research projects have indeed made a difference to the everyday lives of people in need. Check out more life-changing technologies with Technology for People: Software Making a Difference Part 2.
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