It is a great pleasure to attend a world-wide conference dedicated to developments in accessible technologies for people who are visually impaired or blind. Quite possibly the most inclusive conference you’ll ever attend because it’s literally open to everyone. There is no registration fee, no travel expense, no airports or hotels to navigate. The venue is virtual, so you can attend whenever you wish, selectively and on-demand.
The annual Sight Tech Global Conference is a production of the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, founded and executive produced by Ned Desmond. The conference is beautifully accessible. Browse the 2023 Agenda and select the sessions of interest to you and click to watch. Right below the 2023 Agenda, you can even select past conference agendas starting with 2020, it’s all there, a complete reference. This year, it came as no surprise, Artificial Intelligence (AI) dominated the conversations. Speakers talked about how AI influenced and improved their products. They discussed the upsides and the downsides of AI, the magnificence and the maleficence. They shared their hopes and dreams and they marveled at how fast it is moving. How far it can go, no one really seems to know.
Here are some highlights from Sight Tech Global 2023:
- Be My AI: What happens when an accessibility favorite makes the jump to AI? – This session opened the conference, for good reason. Be My Eyes, built on the kindness of strangers, seized the opportunity to integrate ChatGPT4 into its model. So what’s next for the 6.4 million human volunteers?
- Where will AI take accessibility? A conversation with Mike Shebanek – As the Head of Accessibility at META, Mike shares his unique perspective on inclusivity with an emphasis on universal design. Sounds like we can look forward to, accessibility out-of-the-box for, the META Quest 3 AV/VR headset and the Ray Ban META smart glasses.
- Andrew Leland on his instant classic, “The Country of the Blind” – The interview, moderated by Daryl Adams, of intel, is more of a sweet conversation between two people with the common experience of progressively losing sight to retinitis pigmentosa. Andrew Leland describes the ambiguity many experience in adjusting when you are “too blind to be sighted and too sighted to be blind.”
- Wisk: the people’s autonomous (and accessible) air taxi – While we’re still waiting for an autonomous and accessible vehicle that travels on the ground, they’re developing a flying taxi, designed for universal access.
- Waymo in San Francisco: A lesson in public advocacy for AI – It’s wonderful to learn of the driverless taxi service now operating in San Francisco by Waymo, thanks to the advocacy and partnership of the local Lighthouse and NFB organizations. This might be coming to a city near you.
- Seeing AI meets Generative AI – The View from Microsoft – When Saqib Shaikh speaks, we listen. With Microsoft, he first delivered the gift of Seeing AI in 2017, and today he keeps delivering.
- Why did the AI cross the street? The OKO app story – Learn from co-founder, Michiel Janssen, how, where and why this innovative app was created to help people with vision loss make crosswalks accessible.
- Envision: What happens when smart glasses really get smart? – At the moment, these are the smart glasses to watch.