Assistive technologies for children with disabilities highlighted at SG:Digital Wonderland 2019

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran looking at the work of CHIJ Toa Payoh pupils who did coding utilising artificial intelligence to benefit people with disabilities at the SG:Digital Wonderland 2019.
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran looking at the work of CHIJ Toa Payoh pupils who did coding utilising artificial intelligence to benefit people with disabilities at the SG:Digital Wonderland 2019.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - An easy-to-use switch adapted to operate toys for children with special needs was among the assistive technologies recognised for innovation and cost-effectiveness at SG:Digital Wonderland 2019 on Sunday (May 19).

Organised by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the weekend-long tech carnival at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre shone the spotlight on creative devices that encourage digital readiness and promote inclusivity among disadvantaged communities. The event was formerly known as Tech Saturday (Upsized!).

Singapore-based non-profit organisation Engineering Good was awarded Our Singapore Fund for Digital Readiness for their ground-up projects to engage over 20,000 people to learn and build such devices.

The projects included We Hack Care! community workshops that teach people how to "hack" effective assistive devices for disadvantaged members of the society at a lower-cost.

For example, a common household light switch is wired to battery-operated toys to turn them on and off. It which may be hard for children with disabilities to operate otherwise.

Another ongoing project is a six-month-long Tech for Good competition to encourage different communities to use technology to do good.

Engineering Good's executive director Johann Annuar said: "The inculcation of using technology as a tool from young is important but, for children with disabilities, some things are impossible to do with technology. There are not enough commercialised services that can help them so a lot of assistive tools have to be customised for them."


Singapore’s first fully autonomous robotic barista on display during the SG:Digital Wonderland 2019. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Fei Yue Early Intervention Centre for Children is one of the beneficiaries to receive the adapted switches.

Joanna Toh, principal teacher at Fei Yue, said: "With these switches, children with physical and multiple disabilities can have the same experience as other children where they can activate and play with the toys on their own."

A prototype of an on-demand autonomous scooter service, Whizz, by students from Nanyang Technological University, also clinched the Best of Show award in the inaugural Youth Innovation Awards at the event.

 
 

The award recognises projects from institutes of higher learning from all over the world that use technology to find solutions to everyday problems.

At the event, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said it was important to help the public understand and demystify technology in everyday life.

"While at a national level, the government is working with enterprises and ministries to bring digitisation to all sectors, we also want to ensure that this message is carried through to society at large and have many opportunities like this where people can learn in a fun and non-threatening environment," he said.

There were over 70 exhibits and hands-on activities for visitors to experience new technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) through games and interactive simulations. There were also free coding and hacking workshops open to all ages.

Brothers Jordan, 10, and Jethr Lee, 12, from Tanjong Katong Primary School, were among the visitors who participated in a hacking workshop.

Jethr said: "We want to learn a skill and make it easy for other children who have disabilities to play with toys so they can have fun with their siblings."