Microsoft is helping these 11 companies use AI to improve the world

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Companies that are developing a smart cane for visually impaired people, improving food chains and helping those with dyslexia are among a number of social enterprises to have joined a programme aimed at using AI to help the world.

The accelerator is being run in London by Microsoft and Social Tech Trust, and will support companies working on products that can help people with specific accessibility needs or benefit the environment.

Among the 11 entrants is WeWalk, a smart cane that can detect obstacles above chest level using an ultrasonic sensor and then warn the user through vibrations. It can also be paired with a map app on a mobile phone so the user can receive directions to a destination without having to carry their device. The cane contains a touchpad, microphone and speaker, so can be controlled with voice, and supports Turkish and English.

Other companies include Agrimetrics, which analyses data to deliver food sustainably, and iDyslexica social app for those living and working with dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Eve Joseph, Microsoft UK Responsibility Manager, added: “This cohort has been selected on the basis that these companies are using innovative technologies to solve complex challenges that affect society at large. From boosting crop yields, to improving the lives of those living with accessibility needs, I’m thrilled that we have been able to create this programme and these 11 inspiring organisations are at the heart of it. I’m really excited to see what they can achieve.”

The four-month accelerator will give the companies a curriculum designed by the Scale Up team, Social Tech Trust team and the Microsoft UK AI team. The firms will get access to workshops that will help develop their products and bring them to the market. They will also hear from inspiring speakers and take part in Q&As.

The other companies in the cohort are:

  • Access Earth – a free platform that allows users to find and rate places based on their accessibility needs
  • Agricompas – a company specialising in agricultural data analytics to help improve crop chains
  • BetterSpace – An A-Z of things that are good for people’s mental health
  • City MAAS – reducing congestion and emissions in smart cities using blockchain and AI
  • ev.energy – helps electric vehicle owners save on the cost of charging
  • Immersive Rehab  – interactive physiotherapy programmes in virtual reality
  • Shock Innovations – making it easier to compare and interpret thermal images
  • Upstream Health – supporting medical professionals to proactively monitor patients
AI For Good cohort at Microsoft Reactor, London
The AI For Good cohort at Microsoft Reactor, London

Ed Evans, Chief Executive of Social Tech Trust, said: “If we’re merely passive consumers of technology, we’ll have no control over its direction and little influence on its impact on our lives. By collaborating with Microsoft on the AI for Good Social Business Programme, we have the opportunity to shape AI to increase accessibility and benefit environmental sustainability. This means we’ll have a better chance of achieving the future that we want to see.”

Microsoft launched a global AI for Good programme last year, that was set up to tackle the world’s biggest problems using technology. It provides resources and expertise to empower those working to solve humanitarian issues and create a more sustainable and accessible planet.

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