IT research for inclusion
Through EU initiatives and programmes, researchers and developers are able to show how IT can not only compensate for lack of sensory, motor and cognitive functions, but may also be used to enhance human abilities and quality of life.
Research projects are the building blocks of a larger strategic policy geared towards redressing the inequalities among Europe’s citizens. The EU sees the financial support it provides to projects in the field of IT for inclusion as an investment in the quality of life of its citizens. It is also imperative if Europe is to become a leading player in the world market for IT, especially in assistive technologies.
The following are examples of work highlighting how progress in technology benefits people with disabilities and the elderly people.
SYNFACE – Synthesised talking face derived from speech for hearing disabled users’ voice channels Access to spoken information for a hearing-impaired person poses a major challenge. Researchers from Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology saw an opportunity to apply their unique blend of skills to develop multilingual technology for a speech-derived synthetic face. The team, including colleagues from Sweden, Holland and the UK, has received cost-sharing support from the EU’s IST programme.
Facial movements enhance spoken communication for everyone. But this is especially true for the hearing-impaired. In addition to the technical aspects of the project, the team has stressed the market applications and potential spin-offs of such technology.
TIM – Tactile interactive media Today, sighted children have literally hundreds of multimedia games and activities to learn from and play with. A team of researchers from France, the UK and Sweden wondered if CD-ROM games could be used by blind children too. Their project, TIM, set out to offer visually impaired youngsters, with various psychomotor development levels, the possibility to play computer games autonomously and together with sighted peers.
To help them do this, the team has been granted just over €1.5 million through the EU’s IST programme towards developing an authoring tool to design sophisticated computer games. The games need to be designed for various interfaces – i.e. tactile, audio, speech synthesisers and Braille display – and devices including language options and script readers.