Glasgow-based startup, Present Pal, has been awarded an AI Accessibility grant from Microsoft to help further develop its products.
The firm is among the first round of companies granted funding as part of the $25 million (£19.5m) five year programme, which aims to improve disabled accessibility through artificial intelligence.
A combination of grants, technology and, AI expertise enables and supports the programme to speed up the development of accessible and intelligent solutions.
Tech for Good
The grant will provide Present Pal with a host of AI tools and Azure services to accelerate its research into data-driven features which assist people with disabilities.
Present Pal is a presentation support software which helps users deliver presentations in a more confident manner.
Founder Chris Hughes’ experiences with dyslexia prompted the development of the software, which guides users through presentations by using interactive flashcards on their smartphone or tablet.
Microsoft’s Speech APIs will enable the firm to compare practice recordings of presentations against real-time speech. In turn, this will enable the software to recognise when a presenter is struggling to recall information.
Through AI-powered audio prompts and visual pop-ups, the company aims to enhance the communication skills of people with learning differences – as well as those with visual impairments.
The funding grant, Hughes said, will enable the firm to continue its work alongside universities across the United Kingdom while offering the chance to further develop its tools.
“Technology has such an important role to play in ensuring that people with disabilities are empowered to communicate effortlessly,” he said. “The use of AI/machine learning within Present Pal will allow us to really understand the needs and behaviours of presenters.
Hughes added: “We are already supporting students with learning differences in universities across the UK through our existing version of the App, but funded access to Microsoft’s AI tools will really boost the software’s intelligence and sophistication.
“We are delighted to receive this grant and begin a partnership with Microsoft and are looking forward to sharing our journey of enhancing the lives of people with disabilities.”