One way or another, technology has adopted ways for everyone to connect to the digital society, including the disabled and differently-abled. With the advent of smart speakers and other smart home appliances, the age of having machines perform actions on voice command is here, but non-verbal people have not been able to reap its benefits. Google wants to extend that utility to as many as possible through new initiative called Project DIVA, or "DIVersely Assisted."
The basic premise of the project is to create an assortment of ways to trigger commands to a smart assistant. In the case of engineer Lorenzo Caggioni, he was able to craft a single-purpose button connected into the 3.5mm headphone port of a Google Home Mini. When his brother Giovanni, who is non-verbal, presses it, his speaker begins to play music.
Google is looking to develop more methods to link up differently-abled users to commands on their smart devices. RFID tags, as an example, can be attached to different objects and then be touched to a device to, say, give the weather or tell a bedtime story. All of these methods may be related in a way to the company's Assistant Connect scheme of smart device peripherals — Anker, Leviton, and Tile are participating with their own products "later this year."
Smart display devices with cameras may be able to go farther by tracking facial expression or body movement to launch an action.
Caretakers for the disabled are able to program what Google is calling "alternative and augmentative communication" into a smart speaker or display and associate them with any command they choose. All of this is meant to give people with cognitive, motor, vision, or other impairments access to a myriad of digital skills.
Google is inviting people to build their own DIVA button device for Google Assistant devices through a Hackster kit.
On a different front at I/O 2019, Google also went public with Project Euphonia, training AI algorithms to understand what people with speech impairments are saying and easily communicating that to their friends and family.