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VirtuAssist: increasing the autonomy of persons with cognitive disability in working environments

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People with learning difficulties or memory problems face barriers in the working environment because they need extra supervision. New environments, unfamiliar equipment and changing of tasks can be especially challenging. VirtuAssist provides real-time guidance to operate working equipment so people can work with minimal supervision in these challenging environments.

VirtuAssist combines cutting-edge technologies such as computer vision, pointing gesture recognition, machine learning and task modelling with smart-glasses. This personalises information and interaction to the end-user’s needs and preferences in a fun and effective way. Through the smart-glass camera, the system recognises the equipment in front of the user (e.g. a printer). Then, through the smart-glass, VirtuAssist describes the equipment and provides operating instructions. A set of pre-recorded tasks are available to guide the end-user, step by step, in each action.

This reduces the amount of supervision and support required for those with learning difficulties or memory problems thereby increasing their employability by decreasing overheads for the employer. VirtuAssist improves the independence of end-users, increases their competence and confidence, and ultimately enhances their life and career opportunities. In addition, the VirtuAssist smart-glasses are fun, stylish and unobtrusive in comparison with many other wearable assistive technologies. VirtuAssist is being developed with funding from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board under the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI). The SBRI programme encourages technology solutions to specific public sector needs. A total of £500,000 funding has been awarded to eight innovative projects that will make a real difference to people with disabilities.

This funding is going to be divided into two different competitions, and there are four successful bids for each of them managed by Jisc TechDis. The competitions are:

- ‘Ready steady STEM': for opening up access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects for disabled learners.

- ‘Good to go’: for increasing independence in unfamiliar or challenging environments by giving people easy access to the information they need when they need it. VirtuAssist is one of the four projects inside the ‘Good to go’ competition.

For more information about the competition and the other successful companies, visit

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Average rating: 3 (1771 reviews) | Review

Present Challenges of AT (A conversation with our Guru Jutta Treviranus

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 This afternoon trying to catch up with one of our Gurus, I had an interesting conversation with Jutta Treviranus, Director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University in Toronto.  The main two trends identified by Jutta´s research group within the ICT Assistive Technology field are rather worrysome.

 The first one referrs to the topic of Technology Gap or digital breach as it is called in southern europe. This issue brings two different problematics. Those are related on the first place to digital literacy and technology availability for the underpriviledged (let´s remember that your chances to be on the lowest income cohort multiply by ten if you are disabled) and secondly to keep up with the pase that mainstream technology marks. Digital literacy and technology availability are burnning issues related to society levels of development and wellfare. It is obvious that digital literacy inevitably comes after plane literacy and that technology availability comes after proper shelter and nutrition. Providing jaws systems and computers in the outskirts of Addis Ababa will certanly empower the blind but apart from being a limited option (at least for now), full inclusion is more related to development than to the access to  technology.  The second part of this problem, related to keeping up with mainstream technology concerns to the accessibility of the lattest platforms (browsers, social media, etc). This is in many case a tiring process for the disabled such as the blind. If Facebook forgets about accessibility when decides to launch the "timeline" or Google does not make available an accessible version of the translator API, users end up in discourage and unease. This problem is much easier to tackle to the first one described.

The second critical trend observed by Jutta´s team is the deteriorated economic health of Assistive Technology Vendors and providers. She explained the existing market fragmentation and overlapping work carried out within the sector. The way forward according to her matches with ATIS4ALL principles, this is the promotion of multisided platforms online and offline in which the market is concern about the needs, developments, paths, etc... some strange facts are that there is a 98% of consumer abandonment regarding AT products this shows the chaotic picture of the market since user needs, financial and technical strategies are not well implemented. 

On the last have of the talk Jutta told me about her ongoing work related to fostering employment capabilites through technology and the famous Raising the Floor initiatives along Greg Vanderheiden (also an ATIS4ALL Guru) related to standarisation initiatives. 

To check out more about this multi-disciplinary guru and her work more in depth, check out :

Maybe you prefer to here one of her conferences

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Average rating: 3 (1940 reviews) | Review