Microsoft and SIT KMUTT host AI for Accessibility Hackathon to uncover pioneering innovations and empower PwDs with AI and cloud

people smiling

Microsoft Thailand partnered with the School of Information Technology, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (SIT KMUTT), and the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand under the Royal Patronage of H.M. the Queen in a continuation of its global “AI for Accessibility” initiative. In Thailand, the initiative is represented by an annual hackathon – with the 2023 edition providing KMUTT students with a platform to showcase their ideas for enhancing the capabilities and enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities through cutting-edge technologies like AI and Cloud.

Now in its fourth year, the hackathon encouraged participants to tackle four aspects of life with disabilities: daily life, communication and social presence, employment, and education before culminating in the final round on June 7 – featuring seven student teams vying for top honors.

Team DEVA – comprising the exceptional quartet of Ms. Ruedhaidham Soros, Ms. Yapar Winwan, Mr. Sakolkrit Pengkham, and Ms. Pichyapa Khanapattanawon – emerged as the winner of the 2023 AI for Accessibility hackathon. Their groundbreaking innovation, “NEON,” harnesses the immense capabilities of generative AI to empower visually impaired individuals in designing and composing presentation slides – a medium that is predominantly visual. This remarkable concept not only opens up more employment opportunities for the visually impaired but also significantly enhances their prospects for success along their career journey, thanks to the transformative power of technology.

NEON is envisioned as an easy-to-use tool for creative use by visually impared users – particularly students and professionals who may need to develop presentations for their work. NEON encompasses three key features: a generative AI model capable of creating slides and illustrations based on user input, a voice command system for intuitive instructions, and a collection of pre-designed master slide templates that serve as an excellent starting point for slide creation and further customization.

Ms. Pichyapa Khanapattanawong, a member of Team DEVA, said, “We took part in the Microsoft AI for Accessibiility hackathon last year, and that led us to conduct further research into our target audience. We found that visually impaired individuals are just as capable as anyone, and this realization drove us to start this project. With more people with disabilities entering the workforce, we would like to empower them to make a bigger impact at work – especially when it comes to communication and presentation skills – and our project is rooted in this commitment to close the gap at work for visually impaired individuals.”

The final round of the AI for Accessibility hackathon was presided over by a panel of five esteemed judges – including Mr. Ome Sivadith, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Thailand; Mr. Vasupon Thankakan, Microsoft Azure Business Group Director, Microsoft Thailand; Mr. Anupon Sensarn, Director of the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand under the Royal Patronage of H.M. the Queen; Dr. Pisit Prueksathaporn, Technology and Research Officer, Bangkok School for the Blind; and Dr. Niwan Wattanakitrungroj, Lecturer at the School of Information Technology, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (SIT KMUTT).

Now in its fourth consecutive year, the AI for Accessibility hackathon is part of Microsoft’s global efforts to extend technological access to over 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide – including 650 million individuals in Asia. This initiative is closely aligned with Microsoft’s overarching mission to empower every person and organization on the planet, harnessing the transformative potential of technology to create equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities to thrive in today’s society.