Announcing Sight Tech Global, an event on the future of AI and accessibility for people who are blind or visually impaired

Announcing Sight Tech Global, an event on the future of AI and accessibility for people who are blind or visually impaired

Few challenges have excited technologists greater than constructing instruments to assist people who find themselves blind or visually impaired. It was Silicon Valley legend Ray Kurzweil, for instance, who in 1976 launched the primary commercially out there text-to-speech studying machine. He unveiled the $50,000 Kurzweil Reading Machine, a boxy machine that lined a tabletop, at a press convention hosted by the National Federation of the Blind. 

The early work of Kurzweil and plenty of others has rippled throughout the commerce and know-how world in gorgeous methods. Today’s equal of Kurzweil’s machine is Microsoft’s Seeing AI app, which makes use of AI-based picture recognition to “see” and “learn” in ways in which Kurzweil might solely have dreamed of. And it’s free to anybody with a cell phone. 

Remarkable leaps ahead like which are the muse for Sight Tech Global, a brand new, digital occasion slated for Dec 2-3, that may carry collectively most of the world’s high know-how and accessibility specialists to debate how speedy advances in AI and associated applied sciences will form assistive know-how and accessibility within the years forward.

The applied sciences behind Microsoft’s Seeing AI are on the identical evolutionary tree as those that allow vehicles to be autonomous and robots to work together safely with people. Much of our most superior know-how immediately stems from that early, difficult mission that high Silicon Valley engineers embraced to show machines to “see” on behalf of people.

From the standpoint of people that endure imaginative and prescient loss, the know-how out there immediately is astonishing, far past what anybody anticipated even ten years in the past. Purpose-built merchandise like Seeing AI and laptop display screen readers like JAWS are outstanding instruments. At the identical time, shopper merchandise together with cellphones, mapping apps, and sensible voice assistants are recreation changers for everybody, these with sight loss not the least. And but, that tech bonanza has not come near breaking down the limitations within the lives of people that nonetheless largely navigate with canes or canine or sighted help, depend upon haphazard compliance with accessibility requirements to make use of web sites, and might really feel as remoted as ever in a room full of individuals. 

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A pc can drive a automotive at 70 MPH with out human help however there may be not but any comparable machine to assist a blind individual stroll down a sidewalk at Three MPH.

In different phrases, we stay in a world the place a pc can drive a automotive at 70 MPH with out human help however there may be not but any comparable machine to assist a blind individual stroll down a sidewalk at Three MPH. A social media website can establish billions of individuals immediately however a blind individual can’t readily establish the individual standing in entrance of them. Today’s highly effective applied sciences, lots of them grounded in AI, have but to be milled into next-generation instruments which are really helpful, fortunately embraced and broadly reasonably priced. The work is underway at massive tech firms like Apple and Microsoft, at startups, and in college labs, however nobody would dispute that the work is as gradual as it’s tough. People who’re blind or visually impaired stay in a world the place, because the science fiction creator William Gibson as soon as remarked, “The future is already right here — it’s simply not very evenly distributed.”

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That state of affairs is the inspiration for Sight Tech Global. The occasion will convene the highest technologists, human-computer interplay specialists, product designers, researchers, entrepreneurs and advocates to debate the way forward for assistive know-how in addition to accessibility basically. Many of these specialists and technologists are blind or visually impaired, and the occasion programming will stand firmly on the bottom that no dialogue or new product improvement is significant with out the direct involvement of that neighborhood. Silicon Valley has nice applied sciences however doesn’t, by itself, have the solutions.

The two days of programming on the digital most important stage might be free and out there on a worldwide foundation each stay and on-demand. There may even be a $25 Pro Pass  for many who wish to take part in specialised breakout classes, Q&A with audio system, and digital networking. Registration for the present opens quickly; within the meantime anybody might request e mail updates right here. 

It’s necessary to notice that there are numerous wonderful occasions yearly that concentrate on accessibility, and we respect their many abiding contributions and regular dedication. Sight Tech Global goals to enrich the present occasion line-up by specializing in laborious questions on superior applied sciences and the merchandise and experiences they are going to drive within the years forward – assuming they’re developed hand-in-hand with their meant viewers and with affordability, coaching and different social components in thoughts. 

In many respects, Sight Tech Global is taking a web page from TechCrunch’s strategy to its AI and robotics occasions over the previous 4 years, which have been in partnership with MIT and UC Berkeley.  The idea was to have TechCrunch editors ask high specialists in AI and associated fields robust questions throughout the complete spectrum of points round these highly effective applied sciences, from the promise of automation and machine autonomy to the downsides of job elimination and bias in AI-based techniques. TechCrunch’s editors might be part of this present, together with different professional moderators.  

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As the founding father of Sight Tech Global, I’m drawing on my intensive occasion expertise at TechCrunch over eight years to provide this occasion. Both TechCrunch and its dad or mum firm, Verizon Media, are lending a hand in necessary methods. My personal connection to the neighborhood is thru my spouse, Joan Desmond, who’s legally blind. 

The proceeds from sponsorships and ticket gross sales will go to the non-profit Vista Center for Blind and Visually Impaired, which has been serving Silicon Valley space for 75 years. The Vista Center owns the Sight Tech Global occasion and its government director, Karae Lisle is the occasion’s chair. We have assembled a extremely skilled crew of volunteers to program and produce a wealthy, world-class digital occasion on December 2-3.

Sponsors are welcome, and we have now alternatives out there starting from branding help to content material integration. Please e mail for extra info.

Our programming work is underneath method and we’ll announce audio system and classes over the approaching weeks. The programming committee contains Jim Fruchterman (Benetech / TechMatters) Larry Goldberg (Verizon Media), Matt King (Facebook) and Professor Roberto Manduchi (UC Santa Cruz). We welcome concepts and might be reached by way of

For basic inquiries, together with collaborations on selling the occasion, please contact


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