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Robin Christopherson speech at Tech4Good Awards Ceremony 2016


– Considering I do a
lot of public speaking and they gave me a dog
that’s allergic to applause. So…
(audience laughs) I should leave him at home actually because people are always
coming up to say you’re gorgeous and they’re always talking about the dog. (audience laughs) I don’t mind. So (computer mutters So I use screen reading software. I can’t see so if you could. (dog whimpering)
Good boy. Shh. (laughs) So if you could put up with this lady speaking at the front if you don’t mind. So I’ve been asked to talk
about the empowering potential of technology and how much
good technology is doing in people’s lives right across a really broad spectrum of areas. Some of which have been,
are being celebrated, today. And it starts off with a brain teaser. (computer mutters) I don’t know if you know this, but anyway. So we got four people in a room. We’ve got a fireman, we’ve
got a banker, a city banker, we’ve got a truck driver,
and we’ve got a doctor. And the police are looking for a murderer and they know two things
about this murderer. They know that he’s a man, he’s a male, and they know that he’s in this room. And these four people are
playing cards in this room and the police they burst into the room. And if you know this
already don’t shout out. Give people (laughs) a second
to think about it as well. But they burst into the room and they instantly know
which of these four people is the murderer. How? – [Voiceover] It was the banker. (laughs) – No, he would be the thief. (laughs) Should I tell you? – [Audience] Yes. – It is. Computer mutters) The fireman done it. Why? Because he’s the only man in the room. (audience laughs) Okay. The other three, we’ve got a city banker, we’ve got a doctor, and
we’ve got a Lowry driver. They’re women. Okay now. We all make assumptions everyday and sometimes they’re conscious sometime they’re completely unconscious. We just don’t know what prejudices we have or what limitations we are assuming that people are working under. And technology, in many
times, in many instances, can help level the playing field. (computer mutters) So, I’ve got a vision impairment. I’m really really grateful that I have the opportunity to work. Because for example,
in the UK at the moment people with a vision impairment 73% of them are out of work. And that’s despite some of
the fantastic technologies that we’ve been hearing about
today and in previous years. It’s real shame that when
technology is able to help everyone to perform at their
best on an equal basis, that we’re still in a situation here where the vast majority
of people in the UK. In this case with a vision
impairment for example, are out of work. And unfortunately that applies
to other areas as well. So we would ask employers for example, not to assume that they are
limited in what they can do. (computer mutters) Let’s go back to our four people. (computer mutters) If you talk about technology, it’s incredibly empowering. So for me, as a blind person as I was coming in the cab here today, my watch was tapping me on the wrist to tell me when we were approaching a turn and I could tap the
screen to find out what the name of the next street was. Not that I was checking up on the cabby taking me the right way or anything. It was just that I knew that my ETA and whether I’d get here on time. I could also look at my emails and texts that were coming in. The details of my next
calendar appointment. (computer mutters) Speaking at Tech4Good Awards. Is that what it says? Ah that’s what I’m doing. I can tell what the weather is. Whether it was going to stay fine for the rest of the day, etcetera. And all of those just on my watch without even taking my
phone out of my pocket. And don’t get me started on what I can do if I did take my phone out of my pocket. So, technology is incredibly empowering, (computer mutters) but we are still living
in an age where people don’t necessarily think that technology is going to be able to help
people to their fullest extent. So let’s take a look at a closer
look at these four people. So, it was the fireman, what done it. Now he’s really good at his job. Let’s put to one side that
he’s a murderer for a minute. So he’s really good at his job and he happens to just, he just happens to have dyslexia as well. Which is an invisible condition. You know you can’t tell
when somebody’s got dyslexia just by looking at them. But the thing about dyslexia is that it’s actually really good to have for someone to
be able to problem solve, to be a good lateral thinker, to help, you know, it’s
a really good person to have in a tight space. And that’s because people’s
brains with dyslexia, the direct contacts,
the direct connections between the left and the
right halves of the brain aren’t there in as many numbers
as in other people’s brains. But they forge more peripheral links around the edges as they
grow up as their brain forms trying to get round the
issues that they have when trying to read and write etcetera. And those peripheral
contacts, connections, make them really good lateral thinkers. Thinking outside the box. And so, for someone who’s a fireman, having to work in really tight situations that’s incredibly empowering. (computer mutters) And NASA knew about this and when those shuttle launches went
up, those crew of seven, NASA made sure that in each case one of the astronauts had dyslexia. And that’s purely for that sort of problem solving capability. So his dyslexia did help him in his work, but it did have a problem when
it came to report writing. Writing up his reports of
jobs that he’d been out on. (computer mutters) So what he did, what he uses, is something called global autocorrect. And this was a previous
year’s winner by LexAble. Basically as he types it
just magically changes words that he misspells into
properly spelled words. And he just put in his
top couple of hundred most commonly misspelled words. And because it’s global, whichever application he’s in, Word, email, the internet, it automatically changes it to his, to the correct spellings of words. So his reports actually
read really really well. And here we got a picture
of the LexAble guys. (computer mutters) Neil Cottrell and his
team who were winners in a previous year. So that’s what he uses. (computer mutters) What about the banker? Well. The banker is a lady. (laughs) And again, just looking at her there’s absolutely nothing
that you would know, but she’s got high functioning autism. And that means that, you know, socializing perhaps is
a little bit difficult. But what you do find, (computer mutters) is for people with autism they have a really good ability to be able to spot patterns in market trends in, you know, big data sets. She’s really really good at being able to identify loads of very valuable insights into the data that she
deals with everyday. And to help her with her social skills she actually runs a bit of software which I’ll just show you now. (computer mutters) That come up okay? (audience laughs) Great so there’s no audio to this I’ll show a couple of clips later on on where there’s audio
I’ll plug in the thing so I don’t subject you
to my lady unnecessarily. So what this is motion
recognition software and she would use this in
something like Google Glass so that the camera’s looking
wherever she’s looking. And as it detects the emotion it can tell her in her
little heads up display what the person, you know, emotion is. And that’s incredibly valuable information for someone with autism for example. Apparently this software is better than us at telling people, not better than me because I have no clue what people are (laughs) looking like. But, 86% of the time it gets it right even with micro and multiple emotions. Compared to 65% of the
time for us mere mortals. I’ll just close that. (computer mutters) So this is me wearing Glass and this is what she
would be wearing as well. Now you might think well
what’s a blind person gonna do with a Google Glass with
a little heads-up display? Okay I can’t access the heads-up display, but please don’t assume, you know. There are so many
choices, that’s what tech, that’s the beauty of and
the power of technology. Is that there are so many other choices. Multiple ways of accessing information. So I would use the little
bone conducting speaker that sits behind your ear and
I would have that information spoken to me so that I can tell what people’s emotions are like or if they’re falling asleep
or something like that. So gonna look at another quick video here because there is, there are other software that can help people in this case with vision impairment. We heard about Ocusight earlier on that uses special glasses to enhance what vision people have left. (computer mutters) I’m a just quickly (computer mutters) gonna plug in the audio. Yep. Sorry about any crack. So this is an app from Microsoft and it’s running on glasses
that have a built in camera and let’s see how powerful this is. – I join Microsoft ten years
ago as a software engineer. I love making things which
improve people’s lives. And one of the things
I’ve always dreamt of since I was at university was
this idea of something that could tell you at any moment
what’s going on round you. (skateboard going by) – [Voiceover] I think it’s
a man jumping in the air doing a trick on a skateboard. (skateboard going by) I teamed up with like-minded engineers to make an app which let’s you know who and what it around you. It’s based on top of the
Microsoft intelligence APIs which makes it so much easier
to make this kind of thing. The app runs on smartphones, but also on the Pivothead smart glasses. When you’re talking to a bigger group, sometimes you can talk and talk and there’s no response and you think is everyone
listening really well– – I get that all the time. (audience laughs)
– or are they all asleep? And you never know. – [Voiceover] I see two faces. 40 year old man with a
beard looking surprised. 20 year old woman looking happy. – The app can describe the general age and gender of the people around me and what their relations
are, which is incredible. – Sorry about the edit there. I’m not gonna show all of
the clips that I show you because of time, but if I were programming that I’d make sure that it was flattering and it kind of
underestimated people’s ages so that when.
(laughs) (computer mutters) Bear with me. (computer mutters) So, let’s turn to the
doctor, the lady doctor. Again, there’s no visible
impairment that she has, but she actually broke
her wrist six months ago. And to write all her case notes up she turned to Dragon Naturally Speaking. And now she’s was able to
dictate at 300 words a minute. She installed the additional
medical dictionary so that she could say words like fibromyalgia and cardio infarction. And it would recognize them accurately and she was good to go. Now when her wrist healed
she carried on using it because why not? You know, so now she can dictate. She can be much more productive and she had that insight because
of a temporary impairment. (computer mutters) I speak to my watch. I, actually let me pull that out. Sorry. And I speak to my phone. But on the computer I choose
to use Hotkeys for example because, you know, my hands
are on the keyboard anyway. So I can do F seven to
run the spell checker. Control shift E to turn on track changes. Control B for bold. That sort of thing. Even before you mouse users, or if you are mouse users, have even sort of half
reached for the mouse, let alone grabbed it, moved it, clicked, put your hands
back on the keyboard, so. In many cases, these adaptations. Doing things in a non
standard, non vanilla way, are actually a more productive a more efficient way of working. And that’s why at AbilityNet
we would recommend that everybody investigates how technology can be adapted to be
optimized for themselves. (computer mutters) So the truck driver is the only person who’s got a vision impairment. So again, don’t assume that
just because, you know, we can’t see, we can’t see
half of what people are like just, you know, by taking
gander at how, how they appear. And for me I haven’t even
got that information anyway. So this person’s in a wheelchair. (computer mutters) So she has an adaptive truck, you know. She’s got hand controls
instead of foot pedals. And that gets round any impairment or any difficulties that she
has being in a wheelchair. I’m gonna show a few video clips. (computer mutters) And again I’ll plug this in. Now being paralyzed should
be no barrier to mobility. And let’s watch a quick
clip of somebody who’s using a bionic exoskeleton to
be able to get around. – [Voiceover] As you can hear it’s, it’s not gonna sound here and that’s what’s so important. – So I was in a, presenting at conference presentation last night and the speaker asked me, Chris Moon. Chris Moon dot com, recommend it. Was an amazing guy. He trotted on a land mine. He lost an arm and a leg and he now runs ultra marathons. And he’s literally just come back from the Death Valley ultra marathon. Hundred and 35 mile fun run, he called it. (audience laughs) He’s got a carbon fiber leg and a prosthetic arm and he said that actually helps him because he has less weight to carry. And he actually got to the
end of this ultra marathon, he ran up a mountain which was
at the end of the finishing line down again, and back. Three hundred miles he ran and he’s, you know, double amputee. So, very often these
adaptions are more effective. They’re more careful than people that don’t necessarily need adaptions, or have looked into what would help them. (computer mutters) And here’s a really good example of that. Here’s somebody who’s got a robotic arm, so he’s an amputee as well. And he’s got a special adaptation on it so that he can hold two drumsticks. And he can drum at 200 beats a minute, which is way above what any mere mortal, with a flesh and blood, could drum at. (fast paced drumming) Great so. I just close that.
(computer mutters) With the technology that we have today there really is no barriers. Or there shouldn’t be any barriers unless we impose them
ourselves onto what we can do. Here’s a quick video clip of somebody who has no movement whatsoever. They haven’t got speech to
be able to control things. They literally only have their thoughts and they’re able to control a robotic arm. – [Voiceover] You’re watching the most advance brain machine interface in action. Cathy Hutchinson is paralyzed
and unable to speak, but just by thinking she’s
able to control the movements of this robotic arm and
drink her morning coffee. She’s part of a pioneering study run by researchers at
Brown University in the US. – Oop sorry. I started that again,
I’ll just close that. (computer mutters) So, we’ve had a little
detour into mobility and how people can get
around independently or be able to control their environment. While we’re still thinking
about our lady Lowry driver. And I just want to
finish these video clips by a recent experience I had. It, with autonomous driving. I had my hands on the steering wheel. I had my feet off the pedals and we all know about how
autonomous vehicles are. Literally, just around the
corner, excuse the pun, and this is an example
of my first experience as a completely blind person
in driving autonomously. (computer mutters) (Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf) ♫ Get your motor runnin’ (audience laughs) What?
♫ Head out on the highway ♫ Looking for adventure ♫ And whatever comes my way ♫ Yeah, darlin’ ♫ Gonna make it happen ♫ Take the world in a love embrace ♫ Fire all your guns at once ♫ And explode into space ♫ I like smoke and lightnin’ ♫ Heavy metal thunder ♫ Racing in the wind What? (audience laughs) I know it looked like the car, you know, changed color a tiny
bit in the middle there. But, we couldn’t find a clip of. Oh no, I mean the light. It was all to do with the light, so. But I did, you know, come
out of this parking space. That was a Tesla and
they have the ability, it’s called a summon feature, and you just press the
button on your phone. And where ever you are in car park it’ll come to you basically. So that’s what it did and then he pressed the sort of opposite of whatever that one was
and it reparked me again. So, you know, modest, but we will get there and it won’t, it will definitely just
be a matter of time before I’ll be able to that foreal. (computer mutters)
I’ll just go back So, nearly done. Open Bionics for example,
our previous winner in our previous year. And we saw our cyborg
drummer with his robotic arm and prosthetics are more
and more cheap these days to produce with three D
printing as Open Bionics do. And the technology the
mobility that it affords you is increasingly sophisticated everyday. So this is the trend that we’re seeing across all areas of technology. And of course we’re
concentrating here, for my bit, on accessibility and
what it’s doing to help overcome people’s particular
special requirements. But in all of these
categories we’re seeing innovation at an incredibly fast pace. (computer mutters) So just to finish off, technology doesn’t care
about people’s occupations. It doesn’t care about
the color of their skin. It doesn’t care what gender they are, although it probably does
know what gender they are particularly if you got a beard. So, what we’re doing
here at techn4good awards is celebrating how technology is transforming people’s lives. And I’ve said more than enough. Let’s get on and see who the
next category winners are and see some more technology and how it’s really doing things for good. Thank you. (applause)

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