Assistive Tech Expected to Grow Rapidly

As Staunton Media Lab continues to cover the latest strides in assistive tech, we'd like to start 2017 by focusing on recently released reports that forecast rapid growtth in the field. The three recent reports we'd like to highlight focus on voice-recognition technologies across several industries, including healthcare; on assistive rehabilitation technologies like robotic prosthetics; and on the needs of the elderly.

Voice Recognition Tech Forecast

Research and Markets released its "Global Markets and Technologies for Voice Recognition" report earlier this month, an update from its now three-year-old report on voice recognition technologies, "due to the growing demand for enhanced enterprise, consumer and healthcare applications that feature speech as a primary user interface." The report covered "advances in machine learning, statistical data-mining techniques, ubiquitous mobile devices and other technologies," spanning across many markets and industries, including, for instance, transcript applications for healthcare, and voice-integrated navigation systems.

According to the press release:

"Technologies covered include overall hardware, software and devices as well as automatic speech recognition, text-to-speech, speaker verification, speech analytics, call center, interactive voice response, voice-enabled mobile search, games and set top boxes, digital signal processors, gateways, microelectromechanical systems and Bluetooth technology."

 Here are some highlights:

  • The global market for voice recognition technologies was valued at $90.3 billion in 2015. This market is expected to increase from $104.4 billion in 2016 to $184.9 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.1% for 2016-2021
  • Consumer market is expected to grow from $54.4 billion in 2016 to $95.9 billion in 2021
  • Enterprise market is expected to grow from $44.0 billion in 2016 to $79.0 billion in 2021

 North America Leads Global Market for Robotic Prosthetics

A recent market research report on assistive rehabilitation technologies, such as robotic prosthetics, which was conducted by SA-BRC, attempted to forecast two years into the future, finding that:

  • North America continues to lead the global market for robotic prosthetics and assistive devices with a share of 49.4% in 2014
  • With sales revenues worth $337.4 million in 2014, the market is forecast to grow to $560.1 million by 2019 (a CAGR of 10.8%)

According to the press release, though disabilities and amputation occur due to various causes, "an estimated 150,000 people in U.S. are required various levels of amputations due to combined causes (vascular diseases, diabetes, trauma, industrial accidents, automobile accidents and military combat incidents)."

We Are Aging, Fast

Another new report, published earlier this year by Coherent Market Insights, titled "Elderly and Disabled Assistive Devices Market — Global Industry Analysis 2024," included the senior market — for a very good reason. According to the report, the market "was valued at US$14,109.1 million in 2015 and is projected to expand at a CAGR of 7.4% during the forecast period (2016–2024)."

We're aging rapidly, especially in Asia and Latin America. The demand is also fueled by the prevalence of chronic and acute diseases, adding to the demand for high-tech assistive devices for the elderly and/or disabled. Those include hearing and vision aids, wheelchairs, walkers, and more.

A few other key points include:

  • Demand for vision and hearing aids is increasing rapidly, "owing to increasing incidence of vision impairment among the geriatric populace"
  • In terms of revenue, hearing aids segment dominates the global market and is expected to reach $7,083.5 million by 2017
  • The report explains the reasons behind the growth as due to the "increasing market penetration, growing average discretionary income, and improved access to hearing aids... Furthermore, baby boomers population is expected to drive growth for hearing aids over the following decade..."

What Seniors Want

Do older adults even want a virtual assistant? What about smart glasses, something like the short-lived Google Glass? As Erica Manfred wrote for Senior Planet/New America, some research in that area shows high acceptance of assistive tech, going against the popular assumption that older adults resist new technology.

For instance, a geriatrics research group called Glassistant and based at the University of Berlin conducted a study of "Google Glass-like wearable as a virtual assistant for older adults with mild cognitive impairment" and found that the responders were enthusiastic about using those — either separately or integrated into the normal glasses. 

Along with the wearable tech, seniors apparently would like some help with outdoor route planning. If you're in a wheelchair or carrying a cane navigation could be problematic.

Here are a few of the needs and desires that surface in this assistive tech study for the elderly:

Virtual assistant:

  • Calendar. Possible uses include displaying medication reminders and appointments
  • Showing the name of a person they know when they come into the view
  • Displaying GPS directions

Outdoor navigation:

  • Sidewalk conditions
  • Lack of sidewalks
  • Route obstruction like construction
  • Steps or steep terrain

Easy-to-read and understand manuals:

  • Larger font size
  • Larger, high-contrast, bright visuals
  • Attention drawn to smaller details that are hard to detect. One example would be including arrows or other symbols in the black-and-white graphs.

Manfred comments: 

"Most tech devices aren’t designed with seniors in mind, as those of us who’ve wrestled with our smartphones and computers know. Although we tend to blame our aging brains, the fault really lies with the tech community.

The fact is, many tech devices are frustrating for anyone who came of age in a pre-digital world, and most fail to meet the needs of anyone whose vision isn’t perfect. This doesn’t mean we want software and hardware dumbed down for us — but we do want tech pros to understand people over 30 want to use the devices they make, too, and that we want more intuitive, more adaptable design for everyone."

The Staunton Media Lab is helping to make sensible, affordable assistive technology available to the hard of hearing, visually challenged and cognitively impaired. We have several assistive tech initiatives that need your support. Our two main projects now are Reading Glasses for the Blind and Hearing Glasses for the Deaf. These involve embedding a camera and microphone into a pair of glasses enabling the blind to have documents read into the ear and the deaf to see text in their glasses lenses when people or devices speak to them.

If you would like to support these projects, we enourage you to contact the Staunton Media Lab today. Your financial contribution could lead to life-changing breakthroughs for millions of differently-abled people.

Image by lightwise/123RF Stock Photo.


# Chris 2017-02-10 15:16
Nice piece Tatyana!
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