Twin: New exoskeleton gives mobility to people with disabilities

A new robotic exoskeleton could allow individuals who have lost the ability to move their legs to stand up and even walk again. It can also help them walk independently, guiding their movements and keeping them upright as they participate in rehabilitation therapy.

Named Twin, the exoskeleton designed in Italy for the lower body was presented at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan. It is still in the prototype stage and is being developed by scientists from the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology) and the Istituto Nazionale Assicurazione Infortuni sul Lavoro (National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work).

Designed for use by patients with reduced or absent mobility in the lower body, it moves their legs through motors located at the knee and hip joints. These motors are powered by an integrated battery, which is said to last for about four hours of use per one hour of charging. The Twin can be used in three different operating modes. In Walk mode, intended for individuals who cannot use their legs at all, the exoskeleton moves the user’s legs on their behalf and assists them in sitting and standing up. The person still needs to use crutches for balance, as with other assistive exoskeletons.

Retrain mode is for patients who still have some mobility in their lower limbs. It allows them to walk on their own to the extent they can, but provides adjustable assistance when needed. Throughout the process, the exoskeleton guides them towards a predetermined optimal trajectory of leg movement.

Finally, there is TwinCare mode, intended for individuals who have full use of one leg but not the other. In this case, the exoskeleton enhances the movement of the affected leg to match that of the healthy leg. In all three modes, a physiotherapist or the user themselves can adjust walking parameters, such as step length/type and walking speed, using a wirelessly connected Android tablet.

According to its designers, two things that make Twin stand out from similar exoskeletons are the fact that it is made from lightweight materials – aluminum alloy instead of steel, for example – and that it features an articulated design allowing for the removal of components for transport or upgrade.

Artificial Intelligence and Accessibility: Building an Inclusive World

Artificial Intelligence and Accessibility: Building an Inclusive World

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken significant strides in recent years, with its applications extending across various sectors such as healthcare, economics, and education. One area where artificial intelligence has the potential to have a significant impact is accessibility, particularly for individuals with disabilities. By harnessing artificial intelligence technologies, we can build a world without barriers where everyone has equal access to information, services, and opportunities.

One of the most promising applications of artificial intelligence in accessibility lies in the realm of assistive technologies. These tools, designed to aid individuals with disabilities in performing tasks that might otherwise be difficult or impossible, have been in existence for decades. However, the advent of artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize these tools, making them more effective and efficient than ever before.

For example, speech recognition technology powered by artificial intelligence can be used to develop more accurate and responsive voice-controlled systems, enabling individuals with mobility issues to interact with computers and other devices more easily. Similarly, natural language processing based on artificial intelligence can be employed to create more advanced text-to-speech systems, which can be invaluable for individuals with visual impairments or dyslexia.

Beyond enhancing existing assistive technologies, artificial intelligence can also be harnessed to develop entirely new tools that can contribute to bridging the accessibility gap. One such example is the use of computer vision algorithms to create smart glasses capable of recognizing and describing objects, text, and even the emotions of people for individuals with visual impairments. This technology has the potential to offer a new level of independence and autonomy for those who rely on it.

Artificial intelligence can also be utilized to make the digital world more accessible to individuals with disabilities. For instance, image recognition technology based on AI can be used for automatic image captioning on websites, making them more accessible to individuals relying on screen readers. Similarly, artificial intelligence can be employed to develop more advanced captioning systems for video content, ensuring that individuals with hearing impairments can fully engage with multimedia content.

Another area where artificial intelligence can play a significant role in promoting accessibility is in the design and development of inclusive products and services. By incorporating AI-based accessibility features into the design process, companies can ensure that their products and services are accessible to a broader range of users. For example, artificial intelligence can be used to analyze user data and identify potential accessibility barriers, allowing designers to address these issues proactively.

Furthermore, artificial intelligence can be employed to create more personalized and adaptive user experiences, catering to the unique needs and preferences of individuals with disabilities. For instance, AI-driven algorithms can dynamically adjust the layout, font size, and color contrast of a website based on a user’s specific needs and preferences, ensuring that the content is accessible and easy to navigate for everyone.

While the potential benefits of artificial intelligence in accessibility are immense, it is important to recognize that AI is not a cure-all. There are still many challenges that need to be overcome, such as ensuring that AI-based technologies are developed ethically and responsibly, and that they do not inadvertently perpetuate existing biases and inequalities. Additionally, it is crucial to involve individuals with disabilities in the development and testing of accessibility solutions using AI, as their unique ideas and perspectives can help ensure that these technologies truly meet their needs.

In conclusion, artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize accessibility and create a world without barriers for individuals with disabilities. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, we can develop more effective and efficient supportive technologies, make the digital world more accessible, and promote the design of inclusive products and services. However, it is of utmost importance to approach the development and implementation of AI-based accessibility solutions with responsibility and ethics, and to involve individuals with disabilities in the process. In doing so, we can work towards building a world without exclusions, where everyone has equal access to information, services, and opportunities.

Source: Greek

Google announces new accessibility features on Android, including Live Caption on tablets.

Google celebrated the Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) by unveiling a range of new accessibility features for its products and services. These features aim to make Google’s products more accessible to people with disabilities.

Live Captions on more devices, including Android tablets

One of the most significant new accessibility features is the addition of Live Caption to more Android devices. Live Caption provides real-time subtitles for audio content, such as videos, podcasts, and phone calls. This can be incredibly beneficial for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as those living in noisy environments.

Starting from this summer, Google will expand the availability of Live Caption to more Android devices, including Android tablets, by adding a new captioning frame. Additionally, you will be able to use Live Captions with phone calls, allowing you to type your response and have it read out at the other end. This feature is currently available on the latest Pixel devices but will soon be extended to Pixel 4, Pixel 5, and additional Android devices, like Samsung Galaxy phones.

Google Lookout for digital images

To assist the blind and visually impaired community, Google is also improving Lookout, an app that uses your device’s camera to scan an object and then uses artificial intelligence to analyze and describe what it sees. Now, this technology will also work for describing digital images, a task that has been reliant on alternative text added to an image during uploads. Unfortunately, not everyone adds alternative text to images they upload online.

This feature will be a part of the Lookout app and will be called “Image Question and Answer Mode.” Besides image recognition, Lookout will also be able to answer questions related to the image. This specific feature is currently in closed beta, but Google says it will be available to more users soon.

Find accessible places with Google Maps  

Google Maps is also being updated to help people with disabilities find accessible locations more easily. Maps will now show accessible destinations by default, making it easier for users to locate businesses and other sites that are wheelchair-accessible, offer accessible parking spaces, and other vital features for people with disabilities.

Improved text-to-speech conversion on Wear OS

With Wear OS 4 on the horizon, Google is introducing new text-to-speech capabilities that promise to be faster and more reliable.

Avoid URL typos with Chrome

Chrome on computers will now be able to detect when you are typing an incorrect URL and provide suggestions for what the correct URL could be. This will benefit individuals with dyslexia or any language-related disabilities, as well as those prone to typos.

Additionally, TalkBack on Chrome for Android recently gained new functionality, allowing users to easily manage and organize their browser tabs through a tab grid, bulk actions, and rearrangement features.

All these updates demonstrate Google’s commitment to making the digital world more accessible. Even as an able-bodied person, I can see myself using some of these features for my benefit, and it’s very encouraging to know that such capabilities will continue to improve and advance in the future.

Source: Published on May 30, 2023, by “Με Άλλα Μάτια” (Through Different Eyes) in Technology Developments