MSFT Today 2019–02–20 : Microsoft’s AI for Good Initiatives and #TemplatesForHumanity

Brad Groux
Feb 26 · 6 min read

The AI for Good initiatives by Microsoft were created to foster development and support for AI solutions that seek to benefit all of mankind. The initiatives are AI for Accessibility, AI for Earth, and AI for Humanitarian Action. In today’s episode of the Microsoft Today Podcast, we’re going discuss all of these fantastic initiatives and how you can get involved for the great good.

MSFT Today 2019–02–20 : Microsoft’s AI for Good Initiatives — Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify or Google

AI for Accessibility

Microsoft’s goal for AI for Accessibility is to amplify human capability, as they believe that AI can empower people with disabilities with tools that support independence and productivity, as technology rapidly changes the way we live, learn, and work. Microsoft does through grants, investments of technology, and expertise.

AI for Accessibility Projects

  • Soundscape — Using sound, to give sight to the blind
  • Eye Control — Windows 10 APIs for controlling PCs via eye movements
  • Swiftkey Symbols — Allows simplified communication for non-verbal users
  • Immersive Reader — Reads text out loud, break it into syllables, and increase spacing between lines and letters
  • Microsoft Translator — Empowers the deaf and or hearing impaired
  • Helpicto — Helps autistic individuals communicate via pictograms
  • Seeing AI — Is a talking camera app that allows the visually impaired to access the visual world

Microsoft Build: AI for Accessibility

AI for Accessibility & Grantees

  • Zyrobotics ReadAble Storiez is a reading fluency solution based on STEM and aimed at improving early education literacy skills for young children with varying abilities
  • Received a $25 million grant from Microsoft
  • iTherapy is improving communication skills for people with autism, among other cognitive learning disabilities by enhancing their app, InnerVoice, with new capabilities to help people develop their language expression skills and assign meaning to dialogue via naturalized social interactions
  • Researchers at the University of Iowa are developing an intelligent application for people who are blind or with low vision to independently walk or jog around a 400-meter track, which can determine if someone is veering from their lane, and delivers real-time feedback to help them stay on track
  • The Frist Center for Autism and Innovation at Vanderbilt University is developing conversational tools that provide people with autism job interview training through meaningful interactions

AI for Accessibility Grants

  • Microsoft is looking for individuals or teams who are not only passionate about making the world more inclusive, but also firmly rooted in the communities they intend to benefit
  • Microsoft wants to invest in ideas that are developed by or with people with disabilities
  • AI for Accessibility is a call to action for developers, NGO’s, academics, researchers, and inventors to accelerate their work for people with disabilities
  • This is a global program, grant applications from all countries in the world are eligible
  • For academic institutions, the grants can be distributed as unrestricted gifts to academic institutions to support a project’s objective

AI for Earth

AI for Earth is a five-year, $50 million Microsoft initiative that supports, and partners with, environmental groups and researchers while also providing grants. The goal: helping to save the planet with data science. Many of the initiatives are also heavily dependent on the ever-expanding world of Windows IoT (Internet of Things). Microsoft’s AI for Earth has four areas of focus:

  • Climate — The changing climate threatens human health, infrastructure, and natural systems. AI can give people more accurate climate predictions to help reduce the potential impacts
  • Agriculture — By 2050, farmers must produce more food, on less arable land, and with less environmental impact to feed the world’s increasing population. AI can help people monitor the health of farms in real time
  • Biodiversity — Species are going extinct at an alarming rate. AI can help people accelerate the discovery, monitoring, and protection of biodiversity across our planet
  • Water — In the next two decades, demand for fresh water is predicted to dramatically outpace supply. AI can help people model Earth’s water supply to help us conserve and protect fresh water

AI for Earth Projects and APIs

  • FarmBeats — Through sensors, drones, data analytics, AI and connectivity solutions, Microsoft is enabling precision agriculture to improve yield while reducing resource consumption
  • Land Cover Mapping — Land cover maps help us visualize everything that covers the Earth. The Microsoft AI platform and ArcGIS spatial mapping software enable precision conservation
  • Geo AI Data Science VM — Delivers geospatial analytics capabilities that improve the gathering, managing, and analyzing of geographic data in today’s IoT-driven world
  • Project Premonition — Robotic insect traps, paired with cloud-scale genomics and machine learning algorithms, enable biodiversity insights. It aims to detect pathogens before they cause outbreaks

Enabling precision agriculture with AI — Microsoft’s FarmBeats Program

In this video you hear from the following

  • Sean Stratman — Farmer
  • Ranveer Chandra — Principal Research at Microsoft

AI for Humanitarian Action

Was announced by Microsoft in September of 2018, where Microsoft feels that their AI can provide a major impact in four typical areas –

  • Disaster Response — AI can help agencies improve their response when catastrophic events occur
  • Needs of Children — Every 3 minutes a child is born with a cleft lip or palate
  • Refugees and Displaced People — Millions of displayed refugee youth need help building job skills
  • Human Rights — Empowering organizations to help reduce human rights abuses

While technology is important, it’s what we do with it that truly matters. — Muhammad Yunus (Nobel winner for his work with Microcredit and Microfinance)

Microsoft Ignite: AI For Humanitarian Action

In this video you hear from the following:

  • Marlene Urscheler — UN Human Rights Officer
  • Zeid Ra’al Al Hussein — Former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights
  • Bai Yanbing — Postdoctoral Researcher Tohoku University (Japan)
  • Dr. Ruben Ayala — Chief Medical Officer of Operation Smile
  • Michael Tjalve — Principal AI Architect at Microsoft

Leading by Example

We will support specific nonprofit and humanitarian organizations through financial grants, partnerships, and technology investments in addition to technical expertise. We will work together with organizations to create efficient solutions and help accelerate the pace of innovation.

Example of AI for Humanitarian Action

Microsoft’s PhotoDNA is a free tool developed by Microsoft since 2009 with Dartmouth College that is used by more than 200 organizations around the world and has assisted in the detection, disruption, and reporting of millions of child exploitation images and videos

  • PhotoDNA is Free to use for law enforcement and tool providers, including the PhotoDNA Cloud Service powered by Microsoft Azure
  • To date, PhotoDNA has also enabled content providers to remove millions of illegal photographs from the internet; helped convict child sexual predators; and, in some cases, helped law enforcement rescue potential victims before they were physically harmed

AI for Good Resources


#TempaltesForHumanity is a grassroots initiative kickstarted by Keith Whatling, a Digital Inclusion Advocate and @PowerApps evangelist based in the UK. Keith was inspired after seeing the AI for Humanity video from Microsoft Ignite and spurred into action after seeing humanitarian app efforts at a recent Hack4Goodevent in London.

I came across Keith’s #TemplatesForHumanity tweet, and noticed the great feedback, conversation and Microsoft Power Platform templates it helped ignite and thought it would be a great thing to share. Brian Dang from the PowerApps team lead by example, and quickly published the first of what I assume will be many #TemplatesForHumanity submissions to the PowerApps Community Gallery — Volunteer Pledge App.

Another #TemplateForHumanity for a Disease Monitoring App was submitted earlier today by Mariano Gomez Bent who said, “Hopefully, it can be of help to #NGOs and #NFPs helping out in emergency zones around the world.” If you’re interested in knowing more, you can follow the #TemplatesForHumanity tag at the PowerApps Community to keep track of future submissions.

Don’t just sit there, share your #TemplatesForHumanity today!

#TemplatesForHumanity Resources

MSFT Today 2019–02–20 : Microsoft’s AI for Good Initiatives and #TemplatesForHumanity

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Brad Groux

Written by

Microsoft enterprise expert who after 20 years has decided to transition from Windows Platform to Azure DevOps, Serverless, Microservices & the Power Platform.

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