Microsoft AI for Accessibility Hackathon APAC Winners Announced: Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines Accelerate Inclusive Innovation

SINGAPORE – Media OutReach – May 13, 2022 – Teams from Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines are winners of the Microsoft AI for Accessibility (AI4A) Hackathon in APAC. In the third year of the AI4A Hackathon, there are teams that are strongly committed to solving real-life challenges faced by people with disabilities (PwD). The hackathon acts as a springboard for creators and developers to launch their applications, with cash prizes, access to Microsoft technical experts to build their solutions together on Microsoft Azure, and ongoing mentor support to build their solution.

ABOVE: Team Asclepius from Thailand developed a sign-to-text app to help deaf or hard of hearing people.  LR: Krissada Singhakachain, Peerapat Sangpattrachai, Kittipon Amornprasertkij, Papop Lekhapanyaporn, Nunticha Praphanturakit

ABOVE: Team Asclepius from Thailand developed a sign-to-text app to help deaf or hard of hearing people. LR: Krissada Singhakachain, Peerapat Sangpattrachai, Kittipon Amornprasertkij, Papop Lekhapanyaporn, Nunticha Praphanturakit

14 non-profit organizations (NPOs) used problem statements that the 75 teams in the AI4A Hackathon used to build innovative solutions around the themes of transportation, wearable devices and language aids, based on the real-world challenges PwDs face.

Team Asclepius from Thailand, Team SWIFT Responders from Singapore and Team EIA from the Philippines have developed solutions to bridge the disability gap, including building an AI-compatible communication aid for the deaf, a smart system that allows people with physical disabilities to independently life, as well as including banking for the blind.

In addition to these winners, two additional teams from Indonesia (Arabic Braille Converter) and Singapore (MeetMeHear) will receive coaching from Microsoft and its partners, including access to cloud architects, guidance on business consulting to develop their solution, from a proof-of-concept to a application hosted on Microsoft Azure.

“We are inspired by the continued enthusiasm of this year’s hackathon entries to improve the lives of PwDs and congratulate the winners who have so passionately brought their solutions to fruition,” said Pratima Amonkar, Chair for D&I and Accessibility for Microsoft Asia pacific. “May will be an important time for us to see the tremendous opportunity of PwD’s contribution as we roll out exciting awareness, training and mentorship programs with our customers, partners and a wider community across the region.”

With more than 1 billion people with disabilities in the world and 650 million in Asia, Microsoft believes accessibility is essential to fulfilling our mission to “enable every person and organization on the planet to achieve more”. Accessibility is the vehicle to enable inclusion of people with disabilities. To highlight how technology can unlock solutions that empower people with disabilities and enable transformative change within communities in APAC, Microsoft has dedicated the month of May in 2022 to Accessibility Awareness Month, with a series of workshops, training and events, as well as awarding and celebrating winners of the AI ​​for Accessibility Hackathon winners.

Thailand: Team Asclepius

To help deaf or hard of hearing people, Team Asclepius from Thailand developed a sign-to-text application that uses AI deep learning models to capture movement sequences and body positions that predict alphabets, words and numbers based on American sign language. This group of passionate high school students from Thailand has ambitious plans to incorporate and expand other widely used sign languages, such as British and French sign languages, for wider technical applications such as live web events.

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ABOVE: Team SWIFT Responders from Singapore developed a smart system to enable people with physical disabilities to live independently. L – R: Madeline Lim, Abhimanyu Bhatia; foreground: Nurulasyiqah Mohammad Taha.

Singapore: Team SWIFT Responders

Based in Singapore, Team SWIFT Responders designed an AI-based solution that supports the independent living of adults with muscular dystrophy who use motorized wheelchairs for mobility. The smart system Support Wheelchair User Independence Fall Tracker (SWIFT) developed by them offers immediate assistance to a wheelchair user who loses balance from his functional position. This instills confidence in wheelchair users and assures their caregivers that they can live independently and engage in meaningful activities as their safety is assured.

ABOVE: Team EIA from the Philippines hard at work.  They developed an inclusive banking platform for the blind.  L – R: Christian Calonge, Ivan Christopher Carrillo

ABOVE: Team EIA from the Philippines hard at work. They developed an inclusive banking platform for the blind. L – R: Christian Calonge, Ivan Christopher Carrillo

Philippines: Team EIA

To build a more inclusive banking experience for the blind and the elderly, Team EIA from the Philippines developed an Accessibility and Vision Assistant (AVA), powered by AI and machine learning, that works as a smart financial assistant and mobile wallet for the blind and seniors who make digital banking accessible and clear. This encourages financial inclusion for these groups of people and enables them to quickly and securely access payments and banking services.

Two additional outstanding teams have won coaching from Microsoft and its partners to turn their projects into fully running applications hosted on Microsoft Azure:

1. Arabic Braille Converter (Indonesia): an app which can scan and convert Arabic text or images into Indonesian Braille format that can be read by screen readers or Braille displays. It also has the function of translating Braille from Arabic back to Arabic text.

2. MeetMeHear (Singapore): an app to help the deaf and hard of hearing communicate better with others during physical meetings, using speech recognition AI to provide more accurate live captioning.

Problems of non-profit organizations

NPOs across the region contributed to the hackathon through problem statements based on real-life PwD experiences. Some of the shared problems are:

  • How can AI provide wearable devices that help people with visual impairments walk independently and safely?
  • How can AI provide accessibility to online applicant assessment tools, such as language assessments, verbal reasoning tests, and abstract reasoning tests?
  • How can we automatically create closed captions for offline use to help the deaf and hard of hearing?

The NPOs represent a variety of organizations committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities in Asia-Pacific.

Korea – Korea Other Disabled Federation Malaysia – Malaysian football club for people with disabilities Philippines – AHA! Learning Center
Philippines – Atrievi Philippines – Project recording Philippines – Virtualahan
Singapore – Enable SG Sri Lanka – MJF Charitable Foundation Thailand – Tab . Foundation
Thailand – The Redemptorist Foundation for People with Disability United Nations Development Program Vietnam – Disability Research and Capacity Development

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is enabling digital transformation for the age of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.

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