Tag Archives: blind

Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition Launches Today on Switch – Xbox Wire

Finally the wait is over and we’re thrilled to announce that Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition is available today for Nintendo Switch in the Nintendo eShop! We couldn’t be happier with the reception so far, especially from our fans!

Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition is a unique action platformer that combines deep Metroidvania style gameplay with emotional storytelling. The forest of Nibel is dying and Ori must find courage to confront Kuru, the dark owl, in order to save the forest. Ori’s journey is a story about love, sacrifice, and the hope that exists in us all.

To our Switch friends, we’re excited for you to enjoy the same Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition experience that Xbox and PC players know and love. We can’t wait for you to share your stories of your time exploring Nibel!

Stay tuned for the latest game news and updates at orithegame.com.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

7 smart tech developments for people who are blind or have low vision | Microsoft On The Issues

It’s estimated that there are about 36 million people in the world who are blind, and a further 216 million who live with moderate to severe visual impairments. Although the World Health Organization points out that up to 80% of vision impairment around the world is avoidable with better access to treatment, the number of people who are blind or have low vision is rising as the global population ages.

But technology is playing a vital role in tearing down barriers, and artificial intelligence is making real inroads into improving accessibility.

Here are seven examples of how smart technology can be a game-changer, allowing everyone to interact with the world in new ways.

[Subscribe to Microsoft on the Issues for more on the topics that matter most.]

The eye in AI

As we’ve reported, Microsoft’s Seeing AI is an app designed to help people with low vision or who are blind. It enhances the world around the user with rich audio descriptions. It can read a handwritten note or scan a barcode and then tell the user what the product is. Point a camera at something and the app will describe how many people it can see and where they are in the image – center, top left and so on.

3-D Sound Maps

YouTube Video

For a sighted person, walking along the street can mean taking in every detail that surrounds them. Microsoft Soundscape replicates that behavior by building a detailed audio map that relates what’s taking place around a person with visual impairment.

It creates layers of context and detail by drawing on location data, sound beacons and synthesized 3-D stereo sound to build a constantly updating 3-D sound map of the surrounding world.

Knowledge at your fingertips

Braille has been used for nearly 200 years as a tactile way of reading with fingertips. It has now jumped from the page to the screen with the updated version of Narrator, the screen-reader for Microsoft Windows, supporting digital Braille displays and keyboards.

Outside of Microsoft’s efforts, Braille touchscreens that work in the same way as tablets have already proved popular among students and teachers. At the Assistive Technology Industry Association’s 2019 conference in Orlando, Florida, innovations on display included the BraiBook, a Braille e-reader that fits into the palm of a hand, and even an electronic toy called the Braille Buzz, designed to teach Braille to preschoolers.

Beacons of change

Bluetooth beacons, such as those being used by the company Foresight Augmented Reality, act like highly precise, personalized guides for people who are blind or partially sighted. While basic GPS technology can take users to a location, beacons mounted in a store, restaurant or public building can guide them to the entrance of the building in question. And when the user is inside, other beacons can direct them to the bathroom or other important facilities.

Electric vehicles

The European Union is taking no chances with people’s safety. New legislation means electric vehicles have to be audible  at low speeds and while reversing. Some manufacturers are already incorporating artificial noise into their electric vehicles.

Smart Glasses

Researchers at Ajman University in the United Arab Emirates are working on the development of a set of smart glasses that can use AI to read, provide navigation information and potentially identify faces. Glasses are connected to a smartphone through a processing unit, allowing the system to function without an internet connection.

These smart glasses are still in the early stages of development but are said to work with a reading accuracy rate of 95%.

AI for Accessibility

Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program was launched last year, with a $25 million commitment to put Microsoft technology in the hands of start-ups, developers, researchers and non-profits in order to drive innovation and amplify human capability for people with disabilities. The program is continuously looking at new projects to support.

For more on these innovations and accessibility initiatives at Microsoft, visit microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility and follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

7 smart tech developments for people who are blind or have low vision | Microsoft On The Issues

It’s estimated that there are about 36 million people in the world who are blind, and a further 216 million who live with moderate to severe visual impairments. Although the World Health Organization points out that up to 80% of vision impairment around the world is avoidable with better access to treatment, the number of people who are blind or have low vision is rising as the global population ages.

But technology is playing a vital role in tearing down barriers, and artificial intelligence is making real inroads into improving accessibility.

Here are seven examples of how smart technology can be a game-changer, allowing everyone to interact with the world in new ways.

[Subscribe to Microsoft on the Issues for more on the topics that matter most.]

The eye in AI

As we’ve reported, Microsoft’s Seeing AI is an app designed to help people with low vision or who are blind. It enhances the world around the user with rich audio descriptions. It can read a handwritten note or scan a barcode and then tell the user what the product is. Point a camera at something and the app will describe how many people it can see and where they are in the image – center, top left and so on.

3-D Sound Maps

YouTube Video

For a sighted person, walking along the street can mean taking in every detail that surrounds them. Microsoft Soundscape replicates that behavior by building a detailed audio map that relates what’s taking place around a person with visual impairment.

It creates layers of context and detail by drawing on location data, sound beacons and synthesized 3-D stereo sound to build a constantly updating 3-D sound map of the surrounding world.

Knowledge at your fingertips

Braille has been used for nearly 200 years as a tactile way of reading with fingertips. It has now jumped from the page to the screen with the updated version of Narrator, the screen-reader for Microsoft Windows, supporting digital Braille displays and keyboards.

Outside of Microsoft’s efforts, Braille touchscreens that work in the same way as tablets have already proved popular among students and teachers. At the Assistive Technology Industry Association’s 2019 conference in Orlando, Florida, innovations on display included the BraiBook, a Braille e-reader that fits into the palm of a hand, and even an electronic toy called the Braille Buzz, designed to teach Braille to preschoolers.

Beacons of change

Bluetooth beacons, such as those being used by the company Foresight Augmented Reality, act like highly precise, personalized guides for people who are blind or partially sighted. While basic GPS technology can take users to a location, beacons mounted in a store, restaurant or public building can guide them to the entrance of the building in question. And when the user is inside, other beacons can direct them to the bathroom or other important facilities.

Electric vehicles

The European Union is taking no chances with people’s safety. New legislation means electric vehicles have to be audible  at low speeds and while reversing. Some manufacturers are already incorporating artificial noise into their electric vehicles.

Smart Glasses

Researchers at Ajman University in the United Arab Emirates are working on the development of a set of smart glasses that can use AI to read, provide navigation information and potentially identify faces. Glasses are connected to a smartphone through a processing unit, allowing the system to function without an internet connection.

These smart glasses are still in the early stages of development but are said to work with a reading accuracy rate of 95%.

AI for Accessibility

Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program was launched last year, with a $25 million commitment to put Microsoft technology in the hands of start-ups, developers, researchers and non-profits in order to drive innovation and amplify human capability for people with disabilities. The program is continuously looking at new projects to support.

For more on these innovations and accessibility initiatives at Microsoft, visit microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility and follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.

Go to Original Article
Author: Microsoft News Center

Inclusion in action: Jack shows students what’s possible with Office 365, a screen reader and a keyboard

Today, we meet Jack Mendez, an instructor, at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Jack shows his students the full power of technology, and teaches them about the accessibility features and capabilities in Office 365 and Windows 10. Jack’s story is part of our Inclusion in action series announced last month, highlighting how accessible technologies enable transformative change.

Here’s his story.

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When a sighted person walks into Jack Mendez’s classroom, one of the first things they notice is a workstation without a screen. For Jack, this is a striking example how far assistive technology has advanced.

“I have a computer without a screen, and that’s intentional because I want people to understand that all you need is a keyboard and some headphones.” said Jack. “You can produce and consume content and use the computer and navigate just with the screen reader and your keyboard.”

A man who is blind walking

Jack Mendez is the Director of Technology at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

As the Director of Technology at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, Jack is in charge of the school’s IT systems and the software used to prepare students for life outside of school.

When you enter his classroom, you discover a flurry of activity. Jack deployed Office 365 on all the school’s workstations. “It’s the best that’s out there. If you find something better, let me know.”

Students manage their calendars and access email through Outlook. They use OneNote to take notes and access them across multiple devices.

Jack is a big advocate for the use of Office 365 built-in accessibility checker to make content more inclusive, saying,

“It’s just something that it makes sense to click on. It takes a second, and a lot of times for most recommendations that the tool produces, it’s like a five-second fix.”

If students want to know how to perform a task in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, they use Office 365’s Tell Me feature and ask how it’s done. The answers are quickly provided.

For Jack, these accessible technologies are a game changer for him and his students.

“I can now open up Excel or PowerPoint or Word and I can produce content that someone across the world would look at and never know a blind person had a role in that production. It be just as appealing, just as in-depth as anything else someone with no disabilities could have produced.”

Jack says that students want to come to the school for technology classes because they see how productive you can be if you have good training and understand how the tools work.

“My hope for all of my students is that they’re able to use technology to make their lives better. Many of them go on to college. A lot of them start working. Some of them already have careers and they’re using this time to enhance their ability to be more independent at their current job.”

In addition to working with students, Jack shows companies the ways that accessible technologies can enable them to expand their workforce and employ more people with disabilities, like blindness.

During a recent demonstration he did for some local bankers generating a visual presentation on a computer without a screen, he opened up Office and started producing a document.

“I wrote some things, I changed some fonts, I saved the document all using the keyboard, all without a screen.”

Desk view

Jack uses a computer without a screen to create visual content.

Since that demonstration, some of his students have earned employment with those same bankers.

Jack serves as an example of how to personalize and maximize the use of technology. He says he was always curious as a child. When he got in touch with computers, he realized this meant even more stuff to explore.

During a routine visit to his dentist at age 15, Jack overheard staff talking about a problem with the computer. When he told the dentist he could fix it, the dentist hesitated before he gave him a chance. Jack repaired the computer and earned $500. The dentist then recommended him for other jobs, and that was the birth of his career in IT.

Jack’s hopes that accessible technologies become a given in the future, which he believes will make life and business better for everyone.

“When I’m able to help a business understand that when you make a hiring decision with someone who’s had good training that they’re going to help the entire company,” he said.

As for teaching? “It’s about helping a student understand what’s possible.”

Visit aka.ms/InclusionInAction to discover more stories of people pushing the boundaries of productivity and inclusion with Microsoft technologies.

Microsoft’s Seeing AI app now available in Australia, Ireland and UK

Microsoft’s Seeing AI app, which helps people who are blind and partially sighted by narrating the world around them, is now available for free download to people in Australia, Ireland and the UK via the Apple iOS store.

Seeing AI is designed to help people who are blind or have visual impairments use artificial intelligence to recognize objects, people and text via a phone or tablet’s camera and describes them.

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The app is now available for iOS devices in the Australia, Ireland and the UK, after being released in the United States, Canada, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore earlier this year.

You can read more about Seeing AI via Microsoft News Centre Australia or Microsoft News Centre UK.

Democratizing technology for an inclusive revolution – Asia News Center

Tuminez points to the Seeing AI app, which is designed for the blind and low vision community. The app uses artificial intelligence and the phone’s camera to perform a number of useful functions including the reading of documents, identifying products at the supermarket, and recognizing people based on their faces.

“This technology gives the visually impaired hope, allowing them to work as professionals, or just to function in everyday life”, she adds.

The M-Powered platform, active in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, is another instance of technology being leveraged to empower the disabled and other marginalized groups. Through a partnership between the public and private sector, the M-Powered portal helps users pick up skills relevant to the digital economy and, eventually, qualify for jobs. Besides a range of e-learning modules, users will also get access to online and in-person mentoring and job listings.  In Malaysia, where the government has a declared policy to have at least 1% of civil service jobs go to People with Disability (PWD), the M-Powered portal will help prepare a pool of potentially qualified workers that can fill the government’s need.

Microsoft has partnered with Genashtim, an online tech support business and a Certified B Corporation, to design, build and launch most of the M-Powered portals. Interestingly, 90% of Genashtim’s employees are disabled, including those who are blind, deaf or wheel-chair bound. They are part of its growing workforce. The brainchild of Thomas Ng, Genashtim proves that PWD, through their own strength, talent and persistence, can be successful professionals living full lives and contributing to their families and countries.

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The LV Prasad Eye Institute in India is another example of technology, especially the cloud, being used for public good. The institute has treated over 20 million patients with cataracts, which is a leading cause of blindness. It uses Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform to both store and analyze data to drive clinical interventions for pre-emptive care. Through the digitization of medical records, information such as socio-economic data can be used to pinpoint the required procedures more effectively and improve patient outcomes.

The 4th Industrial Revolution has also cast a spotlight on technology’s role in the push for gender equality. According to a study by the World Economic Forum, the impact of the digital economy is likely to be disproportionately negative for women. Knowing this, Tuminez is passionate about ensuring women having equal access to opportunities.

“There is often a misconception that technology and careers related to science, technology engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are only for men and mainly involve engineering work. But this isn’t true,” Tuminez explains.

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One of the first steps is to expose young girls and women to coding, and inspire them to pursue STEM education so that they develop confidence and interest in these subjects. They will then be more likely to pursue, or consider, a career in the science and tech industries, she believes. In Myanmar, for example, Microsoft works with the Myanmar Book Aid and Library Preservation Foundation to train young women, aged 16-20 and affiliated with libraries throughout the country, in digital literacy and technology. In Cambodia, Microsoft supports Passerelles Numeriques, which trains young women and men for two years in technology, English and values. When they graduate, they have a 100% employment rate.

Technology has the power not only to transform lives, but also give hope and even protect vulnerable populations.

In China, it is being used to help parents find their missing children, of which there are tens of thousands in the country. “We had a recent case, where a father nearly four years ago lost his then 14-year-old son, who had Down syndrome and was unable to speak. They were in a restaurant, the father went to use the bathroom, and, when he returned, his son had disappeared,” shares Tuminez.

Junxiu Wang reunited with his son after a search of nearly four years

It was an agonizing search for the father, who eventually turned to Baby Come Home, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to finding missing children. The NPO worked with Microsoft, which had developed an application called Photo Missing Children, or PhotoMC – powered by its publicly available facial recognition technology.

Baby Come Home used a photo the father provided to scan a government database of 13,000 images of children living in shelters across the country. Within seconds, a list of 20 possible matches were found, leading eventually to the happy reunion of father and son.

Tuminez believes there is a role for everyone to play in democratizing technology so that all communities can access its benefits and opportunities.

“Businesses, governments and non-profit organizations must come together with a shared vision, relentless passion, and pragmatic thinking to help improve the human condition. Only then will it be possible to drive more inclusive and truly shared growth in Asia,” Tuminez says.