Microsoft Corporation

05/14/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 05/14/2019 12:44

5 ways technology is changing how people with disabilities experience the world

For the past eight years, Microsoft has brought together people from different parts of the company at the Ability Summit. This year's gathering is taking place May 30 to 31 at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

The summit,designed to empower all people- including the more than one billion people with disabilities - has been a place for accessibility innovation. In 2015 ithelped give way to the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

Here's a closer look at the controller and other recent technologies with inclusive design.

Seeing AI

Artificial intelligence is bringing descriptive detail to peoplein the form of an app, Microsoft's Seeing AI.

Seeing AIis designed forpeoplewho are blind or with low vision.Itaugmentsthe world around theuserwith audio descriptions. And it readsshort bursts of text and scansproduct barcodes. Documents can be photographedand their content read back. Seeing AI also scansand readshandwritten notes

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Microsoft Soundscapegoes beyond immediate proximity tobuild a 3-D sound map of the user's world.

It uses dataand sound to add layersof information and context. In short, it helps usersfeel more comfortable when making theirway around. Landmarks, road intersections and the places regularly visitedcan all be allocated a sound beacon so they can be clearly detected upon approach.

Soundscape'ssynthesizedbinauralaudioadds realism to directions, takingthe map on a user's phone and, effectively, creating an audioversion.

Translationand captioning

Douglas Adams's 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'described the 'Babel Fish.' Theseclever creatures, once inserted into someone'sear, would translate anylanguage.

Being able to participate in multilingual conversations is no longer the preserve of fiction.

Microsoft Translatoracts as a real-time translation hub sitting between people speaking different languages and translating on the fly. It can do this when multiple languages are being spoken at the same time. It can also be set English to English and provide real-time captioning for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Gaming gets serious

The global gaming market is a multibillion-dollar industry. To help make gaming more accessible,Microsoftintroduced theXbox Adaptive Controller,a product of the company's Hackathon in 2015. Thiscontrollerhas large,programmable buttons and can be connected to a range of external devices. The combination of large and customizable switches, buttons, mounts and joysticks empower all gamers.

Code you can hold in your hands

Microsoft Code Jumperis the physical manifestation of a programming language that's helping children who are blind or with low visionlearn to code. Code Jumper is made of a series of programmable, tactile plastic switches, or pods. Each pod is an instruction,andcan be joined together to create a line of code.

It means all children studyingcoding as part of theirschool curriculum can benefit. Children can learn about sequence, iteration, selection and variables. And they learn how to solve a problem by thinking algorithmically -breaking a process down into its constituent parts and looking for different routes to the best solution.

For more on these innovations and accessibility initiatives at Microsoft, visit and follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.