Microsoft’s $25 million ‘A.I. for Accessibility’ seeks to amplify humanity


Microsoft kicked off its annual developer conference, Build 2018, on Monday, May 7, with the announcement of a new program designed to invest in accessibility technologies built using artificial intelligence and machine learning. The program has a $25 million endowment and a five-year mission to invest in potentially life-changing technologies.

“As part of Microsoft’s commitment to trusted, responsible A.I. products and practices, the company also today announced A.I. for Accessibility, a new $25 million, five-year program aimed at harnessing the power of A.I. to amplify human capabilities for more than 1 billion people around the world with disabilities,” Microsoft announced.

We don’t know exactly what that investment will look like — Microsoft hasn’t named particular beneficiaries, but claims the $25 million investment will be split into a number of grants and other investments over its five-year shelf life.

“The program comprises grants, technology investments, and expertise, and will also incorporate A.I. for Accessibility innovations into Microsoft cloud services. It builds on the success of the similar A.I. for Earth initiative,” Microsoft continued.

It’s not the first time Microsoft has earmarked a fund for this kind of investment in A.I. applications. As Microsoft mentioned, its A.I. for Earth initiative — a sustainability-centered slate of grants and investments — rolled out late last year.

“We are broadening our A.I. for Earth program with an expanded strategic plan and committing $50 million over the next five years to put artificial intelligence technology in the hands of individuals and organizations around the world who are working to protect our planet,” Microsoft president Brad Smith said.

Both initiatives are part of Microsoft’s plan to democratize artificial intelligence by putting it in as many hands as possible, funding projects with the potential to improve real-world outcomes, technologies with tangible benefits. In the case of the A.I. for Earth program, Microsoft set aside $50 million for programs that combat climate change either directly or by gathering data necessary to accurately observe environmental systems.

“We’ll do this in three ways. First, we’ll expand seed grants around the world to create and test new A.I. applications,” Smith continued, describing A.I. for Earth’s three-part plan.

“Next, as these projects and our work in this area matures, we will identify the projects that show the most promise and make larger investments to help bring them to scale. Finally, as these projects advance, we’ll identify and pursue opportunities to incorporate new A.I. advances into platform-level services so that others can use them for their own sustainability initiatives.”

Microsoft’s A.I. for Accessibility program will likely follow a similar trajectory, investing in A.I. applications that directly improve existing accessibility technologies, with a substantial amount of that funding aimed toward improving long-term outcomes.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Click-to-brew beer, comfy headlamps, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

September brings 'The Dragon Prince,' an animated war series, to Netflix

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Photography News of the Week: Fujifilm creates A.I. for use in designing albums

Spending too much time culling photos and designing albums? Fujifilm is developing artificial intelligence that could help. The A.I., new camera bags, and extreme weather camera protection are in Photography News of the Week.
Emerging Tech

Moxi the ‘friendly’ hospital robot wants to help nurses, not replace them

Moxi is a "friendly" hospital robot from Texas-based Diligent Robotics. The wheel-based bot, which begins trials this week, aims to free nurses from routine tasks so they can spend more time with patients.
Smart Home

Who needs Stitch Fix? Maison Me uses A.I. to custom design clothing just for you

With backing from Google, a new Silicon Valley-based startup called Maison Me is offering A.I.-assisted, designed-to-order clothing. It's like a personal styling service on steroids.

The Dell XPS 13 is our favorite laptop. Here are the best cases and bags for it

Whether you're a prolific traveler or simply want to make sure your beloved Dell XPS 13 is safe for that odd car trip, these are the best Dell XPS 13 cases, sleeves and carry bags we could find.

How Razer forged the Blade 15, the slim gaming laptop nobody else could build

With the recent launch of the Blade 15, Razer ushered in a new design language that's cleaner and more angular. We recently visited Razer's San Francisco, California design studio to learn more about Razer's approach to design.

Detangle your desk with these mighty wireless mice

If you're looking for the best wireless mouse on the market, we've got the list for you!. Here are six models that will give everyone what they need, whether they're hardcore gamers or looking to ward off carpal tunnel.

It's not all free money. What to know before you try to mine Bitcoin

Mining Bitcoin today is harder than it used to be, but if you have enough time, money and cheap electricity, you can still turn a profit. Here's how to get started mining Bitcoin at home and in the cloud.

Bing, Windows search evolve into new, cross-platform Microsoft Search

Microsoft is upgrading its various search tools to provide more contextual help for those seeking it. Bing, Office, and Windows search will all be upgraded over the coming months to provide much more nuanced results.

U.N. security blunder left secret Trello boards, Google Docs exposed

United Nations documents were left vulnerable to unauthorized users by staffers who left Trello boards and Google Docs unprotected and accessible to anyone who had their unique URLs.

Back for the boardroom, Microsoft outlines the future of the Surface Hub

With the Surface Hub 2 still on the horizon, Microsoft announced two additional versions of its digital whiteboard, the Surface Hub 2S and 2X, to attendees of their 2018 Ignite developer conference.

Here's how to install the free MacOS Mojave update now

Apple's newest operating system has finally arrived, and we'll show you how to download MacOS Mojave for free. After you install Mojave, you'll be able to take advantage of new apps ported from iOS, a dark theme, and more.

Chrome 69 logs you in without consent, but Google says it’s for your own good

Google is under fire for how Chrome 69 behaves. When you log into a Google service, you're automatically logged into the browser, raising serious privacy concerns. Google was forced to address its tactics and update its policy.