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Data science involves some of the most powerful technology our age has seen but have you ever wondered how this can be used to aid the physically or mentally challenged? With the use of artificial intelligence, improvements have been made the lives of the disabled through assistive technology to enhance their experiences. Let’s have a look at some examples of how does data science help with disability!

Data science helps disability through various assistive technology and tools such as intelligent prosthetics, image recognition for blindness, anomaly detection through smart sensors as well as self-driving cars. These accessibility tools leverage the power of AI to aid those physically and mentally challenged.

After hearing of all these examples, you must be wondering all about these exciting technologies, no? Well, I sure was impressed when I first did my research on each of these applications and I’m equally proud that the technology in data science can be used to give back and improve the lives of the challenged. Let’s have a deeper look at these examples (plus some extra ones) below!

How Data Science is Used in Helping Disability

1. Intelligent Prosthetics

I’m sure you must have heard of how prosthetics have helped aid the physically-impaired. But have you heard of how data science has help develop a new wave of prosthetic technology? Intelligent prosthetics have been introduced as assistive products to help enhance the experience of walking.

Based on some statistics that I found from a non-profit Amputee Coalition, within the US, there are almost 2 million people with limb loss. With each year, 185,000 new lower-limb amputations are made. This demand for assistive technology for amputees is starting to drive more action to improve the way prosthetics work.

With recent advancements in machine learning, companies have looked to data science to help meet this demand. At Amazon’s Re:MARS conference in Las Vegas in 2019, an open-source, AI, prosthetic leg was revealed to the public.

This open-source prosthetic leg leverages AI to smooth out the kinks of how an ankle flicks when we walk. Through the multiple sensors on the prosthetic leg, the AI is then able to make predictions on how the patient is moving – cutting, getting up and turning.

This bionic leg is able to detect a patient’s muscle contractions, feed that data into an AI and output the appropriate movement accordingly.

“You’re intimately involved, your thoughts are the same. That’s what this leg is like. It’s a treasure, and a joy,”

Terry, an experimental user of the bionic leg

The leg was received well by Terry, an experimental user who demonstrated the bionic leg during the conference. He was able to efficiently walk with the bionic leg without the need of any physical support. How amazing is that!

Alright enough explanation from me, check out this video I’ve found below to see the bionic leg in action!

Such powerful technology being used for good in such a manner really touches me and I hope you felt inspired too! What’s great about this bionic leg is that it is completely open-source, meaning that the blueprints and materials are made available to anyone to build on their own. Having accessibility to AI for prosthetics can then truly make a big difference in the lives of amputees.

2. Image Recognition for the Visually-impaired

If you’re familiar with data science, you’d understand that deep learning models are great for image recognition. An excellent example of how image recognition technology can help in assistive devices for the visually-impaired is Microsoft’s Seeing AI.

“AI can be a game-changer for people with disabilities. Already we’re witnessing this as people with disabilities expand their use of computers to hear, see and reason with impressive accuracy,” 

Brad Smith, President and CLO at Microsoft

Seeing AI is an app that harnesses the power of machine learning to detect images of short text, documents, products, people, scenes around the user, currencies, light, color and handwriting. The AI interprets what a camera sees and interprets the data captured into audio. This allows the visual world to be translated into an audible experience for the visually-impaired user.

Although this may sound all revolutionary and futuristic, the technology is already here. The AI technology is all packed within a single app, which is readily available from the App Store here.

Let’s have a look at a simple introduction video of the Seeing AI when it was first developed as a prototype!

Now let’s have look at the Seeing AI app in action below!

Isn’t that just so amazing? It’s truly quite a great feeling knowing that the power that was developed using data science techniques can impact and improve the lives of the visually-impaired in such revolutionary ways.

3. Research in Parkinson’s disease

Based on this study that I’ve found, data science can also be used in the context of mental disability too. In another area of application of data science, clustering algorithms are used for the identification and tracking of the behavior of patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Data is collected through the use of wearable tech, which can be worn by patients even from their homes. The movement data is feed into clustering models to give clinicians a better understanding of how the disease is manifested.

Typically, the patients will a certain behavior called “freezing”, which can be detected from the use of clustering algorithms. These insights can better help a clinician give a more targeted treatment for patients.

4. Self-driving Cars

Now, this might be something that more of you would be familiar with. However, did you know that such cars can potentially help people with physical impairments? The concept of self-driving cars removes the need for a driver, meaning that someone with vision would have to be steering behind the wheel.

The driverless experience can benefit the visually-impaired through the autonomous driving piloted by an AI. Imagine a car that’s able to navigate through traffic, it would help open up more transportation options for people who are blind.

According to this article by Intelligent Transport, Lyft offers self-driving cars for people with blindness as a form of transportation. This allows their customers with visual-impairment to get around without owning a car for themselves.

This new initiative has made over 50,000 rides with Aptiv in Las Vegas between May 2018 and 2019. Within the US alone, this self-driving care programme between Lyft and Aptiv has been the largest programme of its kind.

5. Sound Effect Captions for Impaired Hearing

Have you ever seen automated captions from the Youtube videos you’ve seen recently? These are generated using AI models that predict captions based on the audio taken from Youtube videos. Though this may not seem like it does help much, this feature released by Youtube some years ago has helped those with hearing impairment with understanding videos previously not accessible to them!

According to this Engineering blog from Youtube, the number of videos with automatic captions now exceeds 1 billion and is increasing each day. That’s why they announced in 2017 that these captions have now added functionality in producing sound effects such as [APPLAUSE], [MUSIC] and [LAUGHTER].

Here’s a video featured in that blog showcasing the AI generated sound effects. Please make sure you enable the CC (closed captions) when viewing the video.

5. Natural Language Processing (NLP) for People With Deafness

AI in data science for the deaf has been moving in the App ecosystem too. A Netherlands start-up, Evalk, has developed an AI-powered app that translates sign language into speech in real-time. The app, GnoSys leverages of Natural Language Processing (NLP), Neural Networks and Computer vision to power the translation.

“By comparison, we offer a compellingly fast, easy, comfortable and economical solution,”

Konstantin Bondar, Co-Founder & CTO of Evalk

This inexpensive translation app allows for increased accessibility of the advantages of AI into the hands of the hearing-impaired who need it the most.

In another example I found, IBM researchers have used Natural Language Processing in Watson, a project by IBM. The tool, Content Clarifier, was developed by researchers as an aid for individuals who have mental disabilities such as autism and dementia. This AI tool helps to break down complex idioms and phrases into simpler ones, to help these individuals process the shorter phrases better.

The researchers aim to aid high school teenagers with autism transition to college smoothly through helping them understand educational text better.

If you’re curious to find out more about how this project works and see it in action, do check out this video I’ve attached below!

Final Thoughts

If any of these examples have convinced you even slightly about how powerful data science can be used in refreshing and meaningful ways, you’re now on the same boat as me. Data science is an exciting field especially when applied to help those who are affected either physically or mentally by assisting their disabilities.

My Favorite Learning Resources:

Here are some of the learning resources I’ve personally found to be useful as a data analyst and I hope you find them useful too!

These may contain affiliate links and I earn a commission from them if you use them.

However, I’d honestly recommend them to my juniors, friends, or even my family!

My Recommended Learning Platforms!

Learning PlatformWhat’s Good About the Platform?
1CourseraCertificates are offered by popular learning institutes and companies like Google & IBM
2DataCampComes with an integrated coding platform, great for beginners!
3PluralsightStrong focus on data skills, taught by industry experts
4StratascratchLearn faster by doing real interview coding practices for data science
5UdacityHigh-quality, comprehensive courses

My Recommended Online Courses + Books!

TopicOnline CoursesBooks
1Data AnalyticsGoogle Data Analytics Professional Certificate
2Data ScienceIBM Data Science Professional Certificate
3ExcelExcel Skills for Business Specialization
4PythonPython for Everybody SpecializationPython for Data Analysis
5SQLIntroduction to SQLSQL: The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Learn SQL Today
6TableauData Visualization with TableauPractical Tableau
7Power BIGetting Started with Power BI DesktopBeginning Microsoft Power BI
8R ProgrammingData Science: Foundations using R SpecializationLearning R
9Data VisualizationBig Book of Dashboards

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations, check out this resource I’ve put together for you here.

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