"[T]he current capabilities of many AI systems closely match some of the specialized needs of disabled people.... Fortunately, there is a growing interest in applying the scientific knowledge and engineering experience developed by AI researchers to the domain of assistive technology and in investigating new methods and techniques that are required within the assistive technology domain."
– Bruce G. Buchanan; from his Foreword to Assistive Technology and Artificial Intelligence: Applications in Robotics, User Interfaces and Natural Language Processing
The award-winning picture of Munzir El Nezzel playfully lifting Mustafa, his son who was born without limbs, has given the family a shot at a new life after becoming a poignant symbol of the plight of war-torn Syria. The shocking yet tender picture taken by Turkish photographer Mehmet Aslan, titled Hardship of Life, captured an intimate moment of affection between a father and son whose bodies have been maimed by the brutal conflict. Six-year-old Mustafa was born with a congenital disorder caused by medications his mother took while pregnant after being sickened by nerve gas. His 35-year-old father had his leg amputated following a bomb attack in Syria. After being declared photo of the year at the Siena International Photo Awards (SIPA) last year and making headlines in Italy, it sparked crowdfunding efforts that raised about 100,000 euros ($114,000) to provide both father and son with prosthetic limbs.
We're still quite a ways away from wielding proper Power Loaders but advances in exosuit technology are rapidly changing how people perform physical tasks in their daily lives -- some designed to help rehabilitate spinal injury patients, others created to improve a Marine's warfighting capabilities, and many built simply to make physically repetitive vocations less stressful for the people performing them. But German Bionic claims only one of them is intelligent enough to learn from its users' mistaken movements: its 5th-generation Cray X. The Cray X fits on workers like a 7kg backpack with hip-mounted actuators that move carbon fiber linkages strapped to the upper legs, allowing a person to easily lift and walk with up to 30kg (66 lbs) with both their legs and backs fully supported. Though it doesn't actively assist the person's shoulders and arms with the task, the Cray X does offer a Smart Safety Companion system to help mitigate common lifting injuries. "It's a real time software application that runs in the background and can warn the worker when the ergonomic risk is getting too high," Norma Steller, German Bionic's Head of IoT, told Engadget.
Paris-based Wandercraft has announced that it's latest "Atalante" exoskeleton has been updated to give paraplegic and other patients a more natural gait during rehabilitation exercises. It also received a Medical Device Regulation (MDR) certificate in Europe, allowing patients and medical staff to use the device more widely. Finally, it's taken a step closer to personal exoskeletons with additional funding. The last time I saw Wandercraft's first-generation exoskeleton was over four years ago, which is ages in the field of robotics. However, I recently got a chance to see the latest model in use with paraplegic patients, and chat with them and the team behind Atalante.
New research develops a robotic arm to restore mobility for people with disabilities. Brain computer interface (BCI) systems are a combination of software and hardware that can restore mobility and assist in medical diagnostics. Researchers at Cal State Northridge have recently developed a machine learning based, hands-free BCI controller for patients with paralysis and other serious physical disabilities that restrict limb movement . The team created a semi-autonomous mobile robotic arm which performed imagined hand squeezes and foot taps with high accuracy. The results are set to pave the way for more research into ML-based mobility devices.
OrCam MyEye PRO is a wearable assistive technology device for people who are blind, visually impaired or have reading challenges. It's lightweight, finger-size and magnetically mounts on eyeglass frames. The device instantly reads aloud any printed text (books, menus, signs) and digital screens (computer, smartphone), recognizes faces, and identifies products/bar codes, money notes and colors – all in real time and offline. The interactive Smart Reading feature enables users to tailor their assistive reading experience, and Orientation assists with guidance and identification of objects. Newly released "Hey OrCam" enables control of all device features and settings hands-free, using voice commands.
In winter, my nose gets very cold, very quickly. Whether I'm at home or out on the streets, my nose--unlike any other part of my body--turns icy, spoiling whatever activity I am engaged in. A few weeks ago, after years of suffering, I bought a nose-warmer. Mine is, technically, a purple cup of fleece with a strap: you slide a nose into it, and the snout stays warm. Problem solved--or so I thought.
Human augmentation is rapidly gaining popularity. What if tech-enhanced people take over the world! It can be incredibly helpful if you look at it from a realistic perspective. Although human augmentation plays a major role in modern society, it is rarely given the attention it deserves. Let me assume the role of Scooby Gang and reveal all. Anything that provides cognitive or physical enhancements to the user's experience is considered human augmentation.
Neural text-to-speech (TTS) models are successfully used to generate high-quality human-like speech. However, most TTS models can be trained if only the transcribed data of the desired speaker is given. That means that long-form untranscribed data, such as podcasts, cannot be used to train existing models. A recent paper on arXiv proposes an unconditional diffusion-based generative model. It is trained on untranscribed data that leverages a phoneme classifier for text-to-speech synthesis.
Ignacio Montoya pauses, gathers strength, takes a step. With the assistance of a walker, an exoskeleton suit and robotic legs that are attached to his own and help propel him forward, Montoya is making his way up and down the promenade along the water's edge at the Marina del Rey boat basin, next to the Trader Joe's. "Christopher Reeve would be amazed," says UCLA scientist Reggie Edgerton, who worked with the late actor and is now watching Montoya's every move. But some improvements in function, thought impossible until recent years, are now being realized. Montoya was nearly killed in 2012 when a minivan crossed into his path while he was on his motorcycle.
A text-to-speech TikTok voice made by Disney that made users sound like Rocket Raccoon does not allow users to'say' words like "gay", "lesbian", or "queer". Numerous posts by users showed the feature failing to say the LGBTQ terms before it was quietly changed to allow the words. Words like "bisexual" and "transgender", were allowed by the feature. Originally, Rocket's voice would skip over the words when written normally but would be pronounced phonetically if a user wrote "qweer", for example. Attempts to make it read text that contained only the seemingly-prohibited words resulted in an error message saying that text-to-speech was not supported by the language chosen.