Cognitive Computing

Effects of AI on Aging and Ability

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I recently attended the Boston Accessibility and Grace Hopper conferences, and from Orlando to Cambridge, artificial intelligence (AI) was at the center of discussions.Silhouette image of head with a bunch of tiny lighted dots inside.

The next generation of accessibility technology will be driven by AI and have a profound effect on improving the lives of people with disabilities and our growing aging population. It is poised to augment our physical and cognitive abilities to ensure we all have more access to information, increase our independence, and help us lead productive and meaningful lives.

In addition, developers and designers are increasingly demanding easier and more automated ways to create inclusive solutions. AI will be at the center of new devops processes.

There will be three key areas where AI will have the most influence on accessibility:

Assistive Technologies

AI will allow us to give more power to, and supplement, our human senses. We are currently working to give sight, smell and hearing to computers.

IBM is using AI to help systems interpret visual content as easily as it does text. This will be important for blind people who will be able to “see” the world around them by receiving contextual information of their surroundings – people, places and things.

In other cases, AI will help easily convert audio and voice into written text for quick understanding of content, especially by those who are deaf or hearing impaired. Finally, it is simplifying, summarizing and augmenting content to help people with cognitive disabilities better comprehend information on the web.

Aging and Eldercare

For the first time in history, people over 65 will outnumber children under five. This significant growth will have an impact on all facets of eldercare.Photo of young boy with arms around an elderly woman.

To help our seniors, IBM is developing a network of connected devices, sensors and AI-based systems so family members and caregivers can proactively monitor health and well-being. Our goal is to learn about individual patterns for sleeping, eating, exercising, cooking, and bathing – all balanced with security and privacy – in order to improve prescriptive care, reduce risk of injury, and help our elders remain in their homes longer.

To help us do that, we are collaborating with UC San Diego to enhance quality of life and independence for aging populations. The new Artificial Intelligence for Healthy Living Center, will combine technology, AI and life sciences to promote critical research and applications with the goal of studying healthy aging.

Design and Development

Designing and developing accessible solutions – from the outset – should be a critical focus for organizations.

Accessibility isn’t like pumpkin-spice latte that makes an appearance once a year. It is an iterative process that should be woven into design, development, testing and offering management best practices – and continually updated.

IBM is working to leverage AI by automating the accessibility conformance of web and mobile applications to industry standards. Accessible AI tooling will help us quickly scan web and mobile apps and automatically correct issues directly in the code without slowing down the devops process.

Future of Accessibility

What excites me even more about the intersection of AI and accessibility is the overwhelming interest and passion we have received from students and recent graduates.

I am confident that the next-generation of leaders will continue to develop practices, procedures, and policies that support the evolving concept of inclusion.

The combination of an enthusiastic and empathetic talent base and the development of AI-based accessibility solutions will enable us to continue to create a new type of interaction between technology and humans that will deliver information in the most consumable and personalized way.

For more information:

  • Read about the panel I moderated at the Boston Accessibility Conference on the possibilities of AI, and machine learning to benefit people with disabilities.
  • Learn more about IBM Accessibility and Aging Research solutions