Software Engineer Paul Isaris tells us how adaptive technology helps us work remotely, play games and communicate essential needs.
Adaptive technology provides products for different users and evolves along with their needs.
An adaptive technological product must be intelligent. It adapts to user needs and gives them content that is relevant to their needs. It’s always evolving.
What adaptive technology do you work with?
At my company SciFY, we develop inclusive technological products to solve real-life problems. We research and use artificial intelligence (AI) to make our products adaptive
One example of adaptive technology is a video game called Memor-i. It’s an adaptation of a classic memory game, in which you see a grid of cards. The goal is to find all the matches by remembering where you last saw the cards for each set.
We wanted to make the game into a video game that blind or partially-sighted people can play.
In Memor-i, the player can hear the grid of cards and each card’s position. You can also see the cards, so sighted people can play as well.
We collaborated with schools for the blind, universities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to build Memor-i.
It was the first video game in Greece to be crowd funded.
What other adaptive technology do you work with?
Another application that we have developed is Talk and Play. It’s an assistive technological solution used by people with disabilities, including those with cerebral palsy.
We designed it so people with speech or movement difficulties can use the application. They only need to press one button. The player can use a classic keyboard, or an external bulky button connected by USB.
People can also select screen options that describe feelings, foods and needs. The user can express that they feel itchy or hungry by pressing a single button four or five times. For someone who has difficulties speaking and/or moving their hands, it is invaluable.
People who have communication issues, caused by mobility impairments or speech difficulties, can use Talk and Play to:
- communicate with their environment
- be more independent during their leisure time
- receive training and exercise for rehabilitation at home, working with their therapist.
You can watch a video of Talk and Play in Greek.
Who uses adaptive technology?
These are examples of people who use adaptive technology:
- a child with autism that needs an application with tailored brain exercises
- a third-aged person with dementia that worsens every day
- a blind teenager who has no video games to play.
Adaptive technology users might want to receive personalised content and services. It works like a smart news app. When it has learnt that you like reading – for example, basketball – it shows you more basketball news.
To build an adaptive solution, you must know the user’s exact needs. Then, you must design a solution that can be adapted around any future change in the user’s needs.
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Who is involved in developing adaptive technologies like Talk and Play or Memor-i?
At development stage we talk to the people who will use the technology, to understand their needs.
The first stage is to understand the need and describe it in four or five lines. To do so we arrange discussion sessions with the people whose needs we are trying to meet.
Then, we have a description of what the need is and how we can design a solution to help.
Our technical managers then estimate roughly how long the solution will take to develop. Then we work with developers, designers and technology experts.
Then, it is time to form the ‘allegiance of the willing’. We contact universities, NGOs and other organisations who look like good partners. We then start looking for project funding.
We work with users throughout product development stage. They help us test prototypes. They provide feedback that will shape the product.
Finally, once the product is ready, we launch a marketing campaign.
How has Covid-19 affected the technological sector?
The technological sector is in more demand than ever. We build systems that support people to move activities online, as well as training people on processes, protocols and e-etiquette.
Our sector is now used as a basis for almost everything. We are moving to a situation where everything is designed 'internet first'.
Information technology workers are responsible for creating a new era in business, and keeping to a code of ethics while doing so.
Do you think the general public has become more aware of varying needs recently?
The pandemic has made people realise that it is important to have systems that are hybrid. Society’s systems must work for as many people as possible and this will require more use of artificial intelligence (AI).
Public opinion divides between those who embrace AI and those who are dubious.
The technology sector needs to educate people about the advantages and disadvantages of AI. We also need to discuss the ethics of this revolution.
What advances do you predict in adaptive technology over the next few years?
Adaptive technology is all about making a product fit the exact needs of a user.
This process is much more complicated than it sounds. Users don't always express their problems. Technology companies don’t always have the skills to listen and learn.
AI programmes will increasingly need to learn from their users. They will have to automatically respond to different situations and users. This will allow them to offer personalised responses and solutions.
Paul participated in this year’s FameLab competition in Greece. FameLab is a science communication competition owned by Cheltenham Science Festival and delivered globally by the British Council.