Apple and Amazon ML/AI leads to speak on accessibility at Sight Tech Global 2021

Sensors and data are proliferating. Whether it’s from a phone, a car or smart home devices, astonishing amounts of data fuel the work of researchers and product developers conceiving new products and experiences. Among those who stand to benefit, even more than they already do, are people who are blind or visually disabled.

That’s why Sight Tech Global is delighted to announce two sessions, one with Apple and a separate one with Amazon, focused on how those two tech leaders in machine learning and artificial intelligence see the future unfolding, especially around new experiences that will help people with vision loss. Sight Tech Global is a free, global and virtual event to be held on December 1 & 2. Register today.

Designing for everyone: Accessibility and machine learning at Apple

For the Apple session, TechCrunch editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino will speak with Jeff Bigham and Sarah Herrlinger.

Bigham is the research lead for AI/ML accessibility at Apple, as well as an associate professor of computer science at Carnegie-Mellon. He leads a team of researchers and engineers focused on advancing accessibility through artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Herrlinger is Apple’s senior director of Global Accessibility Policy & Initiatives. She leads accessibility programs for Apple — including support for disability communities worldwide, the accessibility technologies built into all Apple hardware, software and services, as well as other initiatives that promote Apple’s culture of inclusion.

Apple’s iPhone and VoiceOver are among the most treasured tools available to blind people because they provide so many services, from navigation to reading email out loud. With the addition of lidar and computer-vision capabilities, among others, the phone in combination with cloud compute has become even more capable as a source of data about the world and a means to interpret that information in meaningful ways. Herrlinger and Bigham will provide an overview of Apple’s approach to accessible design, advances of the past year, inclusivity in machine learning research and latest approaches and future features.

Why Amazon’s vision includes talking less to Alexa

For the Amazon session, Be My Eyes’ vice president Will Butler will speak with Prem Natarajan, vice president of Alexa AI and Beatrice Geoffrin, director of Alexa Trust.

Geoffrin is a director of Product Management on the Alexa team at Amazon. She leads the Alexa Trust organization that is focused on earning and maintaining the trust customers have in Alexa and making Alexa accessible, overseeing the Alexa for Everyone team.

Natarajan leads a multidisciplinary science, engineering and product organization which improves customer experience through advances in dialog modeling, natural language understanding, entity linking and resolution, and related machine learning technologies.

Amazon’s Alexa is already a standard feature in most homes, and it’s another great addition to a blind person’s technology tool set. As homes become increasingly more technology-driven, inputs from multiple sources — teachable AI, multimodal understanding, sensors, computer vision and more — will create a truly ambient, surround experience. Already, 1 in every 5 Alexa smart home interactions is initiated by Alexa without any spoken command. As Alexa develops an understanding of us and our home well enough to predict our needs and act on our behalf in meaningful ways, what are the implications for accessibility?

Don’t forget to register now. Sight Tech Global is free, virtual and global.

Sight Tech Global is a production of the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We’re grateful to current sponsors Ford, Google, Humanware, Microsoft, Mojo Vision, Facebook, Fable, APH and Vispero. If you would like to sponsor the event, please contact us. All sponsorship revenues go to the nonprofit Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which has been serving the Silicon Valley area for 75 years.