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Microsoft’s $25m for accessible Ai

Tech giant Microsoft has unveiled details of a new $25m support programme for entrepreneurs and others looking to use artificial intelligence to help improve accessibility for the one billion people – including one in six employees – living with disabilities worldwide.

Microsoft is to provide $25m worth of grants and in-kind support to entrepreneurs, charities and others deploying Ai to improve access to more than a billion people around the world.

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella unveiled the $25m ‘Ai for accessibility’ programme at last month’s Microsoft Build Live developer event in Seattle. “We have a real responsibility as we think about the impact of technology to ensure that technology is reaching everyone,” he said.

“AI for accessibility is a grand programme we are creating so that we can give grants to researchers, NGOs, developers, give them support, platform technologies so that you can bring your ingenuity and passion to help the 1bn+ people in this world who have disabilities.”

Microsoft says its $25m initiative will focus on key challenges in employment, modern life and human connection.

At a joint Microsoft/DigitalAgenda event in London last month, Microsoft UK accessibility evangelist Hector Minto explained how Ai advances were breaking down barriers to communication, through Microsoft innovations including:

Microsoft Translator – free automatic translation and transcription service for 60+ languages

Seeing AI – a talking camera app giving blind people access to visual world

Helpicto – using speech-to-text to generate sentences

Soundscape – audio-based tech enabling people with visual impairments to build awareness of their surroundings

“The world is completely changing,” Minto said. “We are now putting eye control inside Windows. We are putting voice into Windows everywhere. We are putting Cortana in there to intelligently process information. There’s a real opportunity to jump on the latest technology, but the only reason you have found out about any of these things is because of disability.”

“Think about including the one in six people within your businesses,” he urged. “It’s not as difficult as you think.”

For more information about AI for Accessibility, visit aka.ms/aiforaccessibility

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