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Google Assistant becomes more accessible for people with cerebral palsy, autism and ALS



Becky Tyler has cerebral palsy. She can't easily control her muscles or speak on her own. But Tyler still very much has a creative voice. She’s an avid gamer and runner, and an advocate for quality and inclusion. Tyler even has her own YouTube channel.


Google and Sweden’s Tobii Dynavox, a global producer of eye tracking and other assistive communication technology, spotlighted Tyler Wednesday in separate blog posts announcing a collaboration between the two companies. Google is bringing the Google Assistant to Tobii Dynavox’s apps and services, letting folks like Tyler become more independent. The Assistant can help them control lights, thermostats, TVs, and other smart home devices.


The Snap Core First software on Tobii Dynavox’s dedicated tablets and mobile apps, includes a preconfigured set of tiles to let people with Cerebral Palsy, ALS, autisim and other disabilities communicate via touch, eye gaze and scanning.


These tiles can be set up through the Google Home app and customized so that the Google Assistant can answer questions, say, around the weather or what’s on a person’s calendar.


Google also announced that the Action Blocks feature it started rolling out last May can make it easier for people with cognitive disabilities use Android phones and tablets, again with an assist from the Google Assistant. These single-tap home screen buttons can be configured to help someone make calls, send texts, play videos and control other devices. And now through the partnership between the companies, Tobii Dynavox’s library of tens of thousands of Picture Communication Symbols (PCS)--these have been around for 30 years--can be used on Action Blocks buttons, making it that much more comfortable for those people who already familiar with the symbols.





“Our mission is to empower people with disabilities to do what they once did or never thought possible,” said Tobii Dynavox, CEO Fredrik Ruben, in a statement. “It includes the possibility to communicate, control your surrounding environment and receive the same access to education and information as anyone else. Therefore, we are extremely pleased to enter this partnership with Google and jointly develop technologies that are more accessible to everyone.”


For her part, Tyler is taking advantage of the integration between the Google Assistant and Snap Core First on her Google Nest Mini "to control my home environment, access all kinds of information and to play my music."


Email: edbaig@gmail.com; Follow @edbaig on Twitter