Many zany and futuristic gadgets made their premiere at last week’s CES 2019. While much of the technology debuted at the show was geared toward luxury and progress, numerous cutting-edge innovations were designed specifically for people with disabilities. This change in direction exhibits the ways that the tech industry is shifting more focus on accessible technology so everyone can enjoy products on the market.
A fine model of this shift is a product from eSight. They’ve developed a pair of glasses capable of helping people who are legally blind, to see. And not just outlines or shapes, the glasses could help them see better than people with 20/20 vision. The eSight glasses are equipped with a camera on the front, displaying live images on two screens in a format that works with impaired eyes. A remote is then used to pair the glasses to the wearer, allowing them full control of the contrast, magnification, and focus.
A coach and user of the glasses for eSight, Rosa Henderson was born with a visual impairment that only allowed her to see below the big E on an eye exam chart. Henderson is only three classes away from earning her associate degree in business, but the road was long and hard. Due to her eyesight, Henderson would have to ask for the printed course material before each class, and then stay later with a tutor to go back over the material covered in her class. With the eSight glasses, she can achieve everything she is capable of now that technology is gearing its focus on making accessible technology.
Following in eSight’s technology accessibility footsteps, WHILL is a company focused on providing autonomous technology for electric wheelchairs so users can travel greater distances in airports, amusement parks, and large cities. WHILL’s Autonomous Drive device will come to a user and then return to its base upon trip completion. Front-and rear-mounted cameras and sensors deliver ultra-wide angle visibility and obstacle detection to prevent collisions.
Additionally, Microsoft has answered the call for accessibility by committing $25 million over five years to develop artificial intelligence (AI) technology to aid people with disabilities. The company created the Xbox Adaptive Controller that was specifically designed for gamers with limited mobility. Microsoft employee Christopher Brady says, “I have a special needs child. I know that there are times when things might not work the way it works for everybody else. The idea of letting kids who normally wouldn’t be able to have fun to do things they normally watch their friends do, to me, that’s worth every penny of the investment it takes to create something like this.”
The controller was first featured during a 2018 holiday ad that ended with the slogan, “When everybody plays, we all win.”
Adapting technology for people with disabilities isn’t about pointing out differences, it’s about allowing people to achieve their full potential, even if it means doing things an alternate way.