Microsoft announced at their recent Build 2018 Developers Conference that they are investing US$25 million in a five-year program aimed at giving developers the artificial intelligence (AI) tools to build intelligent solutions to benefit people with disabilities. This investment will be rolled out in the areas of grants, technology investments and expertise, and will see AI for Accessibility innovations incorporated into Microsoft cloud services.
Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith stated ‘AI can be a game changer for people with disabilities. Already, we’re witnessing this as people with disabilities expand their use of computers to hear, see and reason with impressive accuracy. At Microsoft we’ve been putting to work stronger solutions such as real-time speech-to-text transcription, visual recognition services and predictive text functionality.’
Microsoft see the value in three specific scenarios. That of employment, modern life and human connection. Smith said, ‘First, we will provide seed grants for technology to developers, universities, non-governmental organisations and investors taking an AI-first approach focused on creating solutions that will create new opportunities and assist people with disabilities with work, life and human connections. Next, we will identify the projects that show the most promise and make larger investments of technology and access to Microsoft AI experts to help bring them to scale. And third, as we infuse AI and inclusive design across our offerings, we will work with partners to incorporate AI innovations into platform level services to empower others to maximise the accessibility of their offerings.
This funding comes as Microsoft unveils a bunch of new tools that will help build AI solutions and multi-device, multi-sense experiences.
Sounds good to us! Thank you Microsoft, for seeing the value and importance in investing in technology and more specifically AI that will better the lives of people with disabilities.