Microsoft holds first AI for accessibility hackathon across the Asia Pacific

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Microsoft held its first ever AI for Accessibility hackathon across seven Asian Pacific countries on 11 October, with the aim of developing artificial intelligence (AI) prototype solutions to challenges faced by persons with disabilities related to daily living, employability and communication, so as to build a more inclusive and accessible world.

Taking place in Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, the hackathon brought together more than 400 participants in teams of IT professionals, students, young developers and representatives of universities, international organisations, start-ups and non-profit organisations. The teams who developed the best prototypes will get a chance to apply for a Microsoft AI for Accessibility grant and receive support to bring their solution to market. 

For each country, problem statements that identify opportunities to use AI for inclusion and accessibility were provided by local disabled persons organisations (DPOs), who also participated in the hackathon. In Malaysia, the teams worked on problem statements provided by the Malaysian Federation for the Deaf. 

Among the winning teams were Team AI.D (with representatives from Axiata, Monash and NXP), which developed an AI app that supports deaf individuals to perceive their environment; Team Smart Ears (XiaMen University), which developed a smart wearable that translates sign language to text, and speech to text and sign language, using emotion and sound detection; and Team IHearU (with members from Abundent Sdn Bhd, BFM Media, and Aizach Niaga Sdn Bhd), which developed an application providing Malaysian sign language interpretation through computer vision and machine learning.

 “There is a significant segment of the Malaysian population that are deaf or hard of hearing, many of whom do not rely on technology to assist in communication accessibility due to either a lack of awareness or because these solutions are unaffordable,” said Malaysian Federation of the Deaf executive director Mohamad Sazali Shaari.

Microsoft Malaysia chief marketing operations officer Michal Golebiewski said, “We have the opportunity to bring about change at a grand scale, to create more inclusive classrooms and workplaces and to impact education and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.”

“But this has to be a collaborative effort that involves the brightest minds in the industry. That is the underpinning idea behind the AI for Accessibility hackathon, which looks into how AI can empower people with disabilities with tools that support independence and productivity.”

SourcesMicrosoftDigital News Asia