At Weekend Hackathon, Experts from NYU and AT&T Look for Solutions for People with Disabilities

An app that retrieves and transcribes images from Twitter, another that helps speechless people communicate, and a third designed to prevent anxiety attacks earned $10,000 in prizes this past weekend at the kickoff hackathon for AT&T and New York University’s three-month Connect Ability Challenge.

The challenge–launched in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) this July–calls on makers, coders, and innovators to create and refine apps, wearables, and other technology that break down barriers to independence and self-expression, helping millions of people with disabilities.

Hosted by technical experts from NYU and AT&T, hackathon participants worked with exemplars–members of the disability community – who discussed the challenges they face in their daily routines and the kinds of tech they believe can help. All app developers who participated in the hackathon, as well as others who are contributing from around the world, will have until June 24 to build apps and submit them for judging in the Connect Ability Challenge. Then, on the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in July, AT&T and NYU will announce who will collect $100,000 in prizes to help bring their assistive technologies to life.

“It is nothing short of inspirational to see the creative solutions produced during the hackathon, and we are eager to see how these and others will be further developed into the innovative and potentially life-changing solutions that will enable people with disabilities to participate more fully in our society,” said Marissa Shorenstein, AT&T’s New York State president. “We are grateful to New York University’s ABILITY Lab and the challenge’s exemplars–Gus ChalkiasJason DaSilvaXian Horn, and Paul Kotler–for lending their expertise and know-how to this groundbreaking project.”

The winning concepts are:

  • First prize ($5,000): alt_text_bot, an app that uses image recognition technology to quickly describe images on Twitter so that people with vision impairment can participate more fully in social media.
  • Second prize ($3,500): StenoSpeak, a mobile app that improves upon open-source stenography technology to speed up text translation to a conversational pace for those who cannot use their voices to communicate.
  • Third prize ($1,500): Tranquil Tracker, a biosensing system that can predict and prevent anxiety attacks.

Fifteen teams presented to judges at the conclusion of the 36-hour hackathon at the NYU ABILITY Lab in Downtown Brooklyn. More than 100 hackers, makers, and innovators participated.

“On behalf of New York University, it’s my honor to congratulate the winners of the Connect Ability Challenge hackathon, and I thank all of the participants for spending their weekend with us working to make a difference for people with disabilities,” said R. Luke DuBois, associate professor of Integrated Digital Media at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. “We encourage everyone to continue their work into the summer as part of the AT&T NYU Connect Ability Challenge. The nation’s largest private research university is tremendously proud to be partnering with AT&T to support an active, engaged ecosystem of makers and developers interested in opening access for all.”

“The ideas generated during these two short days have exceeded our expectations, and the energy and interest that the participants demonstrated in developing solutions for people with disabilities is astounding,” said Anita Perr, clinical associate professor of occupational therapy at NYU Steinhardt. “I hope that they take these lessons with them and continue to address the needs of people with disabilities in their future work. We’re fortunate to have a unique team come together for this challenge, from disability specialists and clinicians to engineers, designers, and developers–not to mention people from AT&T sharing their expertise in methods of connectivity and the input from our exemplars who are using their own experiences to push forward the technology available for people with disabilities.”

The NYU ABILITY Lab leads the Connect Ability Challenge participation at NYU. This interdisciplinary research space within the Media and Games Network (MAGNET) in Downtown Brooklyn is a collaboration of the Polytechnic School of Engineering; the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; and the Tisch School of the Arts in support of research and education across NYU.

ChallengePost powers the contest.

Winners of the Connect Ability Challenge will be announced on July 26, which is the 25th anniversary of the ADA. For more information or to register for the challenge, visit connectability.challengepost.com and follow the latest news on Twitter using the hashtag #ConnectAbility.

(Images courtesy of Norton Edwards, LLC.)