Skip main navigation

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technologies are products designed to help people perform everyday tasks. Watch Dr Kofi Appiah explain more.
Assistive technologies are products designed to help people perform everyday tasks. In today’s world, they play a vital role in promoting well-being. More broadly, Assistive Technology is used to refer to products, environmental modifications or services which help people with disabilities overcome challenges they encounter in their lives and work. For example, think about the challenges of living independently for an elderly person. What could technology do to help them engage in an active social life or maintain their independence? Independence is a fundamental element of any Assistive Technology. In the case of independent living, it means not having to ask for help from friends, family or carers for specific tasks.
In recent decades there has been a tremendous increase in demand for new technological solutions allowing an improvement to the quality of life. Often this is for elderly people or people with different abilities but increasingly also for able people wanting to increase their comfort. The range of human needs that can be addressed by Assistive Technology can be quite large. Consider a scenario where your elderly grandparent with limited mobility and living alone in a house hears the doorbell ring. If this is a daily occurrence and your grandparent decides to leave the door open to avoid having to get up and walk to the door, can you think of the security implications? Are there any other concerns with this approach?
Can you think of any technology that can assist your grandparent in this scenario? What if you are sick in bed with your TV
on, not able to reach the remote: can you think of any other ways that you could turn off the television? Would that benefit any other person with some form of disabilities? The Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology initiative from the World Health Organisation
groups most of these needs into four categories: mental functions, personal mobility, sensory functions, and daily living activities. Computer Vision can help to address all four of these categories of need. For example, assistive technologies may involve object detection to establish where a person is and how they are interacting with the environment. Human activity recognition can be used to measure a person’s level of activity over a period of time, and head pose and gaze estimation to determine if a person is conscious and attentive. These capabilities could be put together in a care robot, which is able to scan a person’s ‘normal state’, and then detect movement which might indicate a problem such as a fall.
Having the robot perform this checking function frees up a nurse or other human carer for more complex caring tasks. These vision tasks can be combined with other aspects of AI to form more sophisticated assistive
technologies: for example, companion robots, which can assist with tasks like food delivery, medicine reminders or conversing with people to alleviate problems of loneliness.

Assistive technologies are products designed to help people perform everyday tasks.

Watch Dr Kofi Appiah explain more.

This article is from the free online

Intelligent Systems: An Introduction to Deep Learning and Autonomous Systems

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education