Cardiff-based technologists explore ways AI can help people with disabilities

A Cardiff-based charity has been working with technology researchers to explore ways that artificial intelligence can be used to support people living with learning disabilities.

Specialists at Y Lab, which is a Cardiff University and Nesta foundation collaboration, have developed intelligent personal assistants to help people with disabilities live independently.

The project is being funded by Innovate to Save, and the researchers have used smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home to aid disabled people.

Over the past few months, the researchers have been working with two supported living schemes based in Rhondda. They’ve been using these speakers to improve efficiencies among support workers, too.

Backed by the Welsh Government, the Innovate Trust believes that this technology has “great potential to support a person with learning disabilities and other sensory impairments to live independently in their home”.

The organisation explained that it’s utilising AI technology “to find out how it can work harmoniously with other current assisted living technology such as sensors in the home to identify activity”.

Amazon and the local authorities of Rhondda Cynon Taff, Vale of Glamorgan Council and Cardiff Council have also been working on the project. It’s hoped that it’ll run again in the future.

Ron Woods, the project director, said that it was “only a matter of time before the potential of smart speaker technology was realised and adapted for adults with learning disabilities”.

He said: “The potential of the technology, its applications and the difference it can make to improve an individual’s life and wellbeing has grown exponentially over the course of this research and development project.

“The results generated and explored in this report are promising and provide pragmatic structural support for further scaling and adopting of mainstream technology in a supported living setting.”

Woods added: “The study showed increased engagement in the areas of communication and learning; leisure and entertainment, controlling the home environment and safety and security.

“Given the promising results uncovered from this pilot study, I hope you will share in our excitement for the future development of social care and through its adoption of mainstream technology to create greater independence for a wide range of individuals.”