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Microsoft today announced its AI for Accessibility program to explore ways artificial intelligence can improve the lives of people with disabilities. The company has pledged $25 million over the next five years to developers, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and others making AI-fueled solutions that serve those with disabilities.
Seed grants will be provided to initial endeavors, and the most promising projects will later receive larger investments. The program will also encourage Microsoft partner businesses to use AI for improved services for people with disabilities.
Examples of AI used to improve lives include Seeing AI, an app that uses computer vision to help blind people interpret the world around them, and learning tools to help kids with disabilities learn how to read. The Microsoft AI for Accessibility program will be run by Microsoft’s accessibility team and chief accessibility officer, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, who will make tools for developers and assist those interested in making AI accessible to everyone.
“Building on [the program’s] success over the past three years with developers and engineers across Microsoft, their expanded mission is to provide a new level of tools and support for developers and around the world,” Microsoft president Brad Smith said in a blog post.
AI for Accessibility will focus on AI-powered solutions in three primary areas: work, life, and human connections for people with disabilities.
This isn’t Microsoft’s first initiative to democratize AI and make the world a better place. Last December, the company committed $50 million to AI for Earth, which has a five-year plan to support the creation of AI that helps reduce climate change and increase crop yields.
The news was announced today at Build, Microsoft’s annual developer conference, which is being held May 7-9 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington.