Hear, See, Feel: The AI Awakening in Assistive Technology

Artificial Intelligence stands as a transformative force in the realm of assistive technology, where its applications herald a new era of accessibility for people with disabilities. Its integration into wearable technology and sensory augmentation devices has unlocked unprecedented possibilities, ensuring that barriers to communication and interaction are not just reduced, but often transcended.

Before diving too far into today’s episode, I want to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Mitch Jackson and to give context to this show, I’m a lawyer and private mediator with 30 plus years of experience, many of which directly or indirectly involved the tech space. In each podcast episode, I help you navigate the new and sometimes confusing dynamic digital landscape found at the intersection of law, business, and technology, focusing on web3, AI and the metaverse.

Ready to dive into today’s episode? Great. Let’s get started!

For those with hearing impairments, AI-driven devices translate auditory information into visual or tactile feedback. Imagine smart glasses that provide real-time captions for conversations, or hearing aids that filter and amplify speech with clarity even in noisy environments. These tools not just assist in hearing but also in understanding, leveraging natural language processing to provide context and meaning.

AI’s capability to interpret visual data extends a lifeline to the visually impaired. Picture and video recognition tools act as their eyes, describing scenes, identifying objects, and even recognizing faces, empowering them to navigate through their surroundings with an informed confidence. For instance, smart glasses, a chest mounted wearable audio and visual input system or, even a smartphone camera, coupled with AI, can vocalize the items in a grocery store aisle or read aloud the text from a book or sign.

The realms of taste and smell, too, are being reconceptualized with AI. Devices integrated with tongues and noses equipped with sensors can mimic these senses, providing feedback and analysis that can be used in various applications, from detecting gas leaks to helping those with anosmia or ageusia identify spoiled food or experience flavors artificially.

Touch is another frontier where AI makes significant strides. Haptic vests and clothing with embedded sensors and actuators offer sensory feedback for individuals with tactile limitations. These wearables can convert sound into vibrations, enabling a person with hearing impairment to ‘feel’ music or speech. Similarly, they can provide navigational cues, alerting wearers to obstacles in their path or guiding them with gentle nudges.

Beyond individual devices, AI is a catalyst for inclusive environments. Smart homes that respond to voice commands, workplaces with AI-powered accessibility tools, and public spaces with integrated systems that assist a wide range of disabilities, all contribute to a society where participation is not hindered by physical limitations.

AI is not just a technological marvel; it is a bridge to inclusivity, a tool that adapts the world to the individual, rather than forcing the individual to adapt to the world. As wearable technology and AI continue to evolve, they promise a future where disabilities are not obstacles but mere variations in the human experience. The key will be ensuring these technologies are accessible and equitable, so they can truly serve those who stand to benefit the most.

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Until next time, thanks for listening, and never stop making each day your masterpiece!

Haben Girma Interview

While you’re here, I invite you to watch or listen to the recorded live video, or read the transcript, of my interview with my friend, Haben Girma, the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law. She is truly an amazing human being!

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