What we're looking forward to in 2019

1 January 2019

Leonard Cheshire’s resident ‘Q’ and Director of Assistive Technology, Steve Tyler, is on hand again to guide us through his take on the most exciting assistive technology developments in the coming year...

Neato robot Hoover

Steve Tyler

Devices and systems for the home are becoming ever more accessible and the Neato robot Hoover controlled by Alexa is a good example.

Amazon’s roll out of Alexa has also enabled household products such as Microwaves and TVs, and the latest Google Home products are becoming more intelligent around home connectivity.

This could all mean a brigher future around access in many ways for people with disabilities.

Like Alexa, the Neato vacuum cleaner has a semblance of a personality – it will send you messages like ‘I think I need my brushes cleaning’ or ‘I’ve got stuck – come and lift me out!’ and if you don’t respond it will say ‘are you still there?’.

Singlecue gesture control

Continuous innovation in the area of assistive technology means that this device and others will shortly appear are appearing on Amazon.

This is a device that allows you to control every day products like TV and lights et cetera using gestures including the use of only one finger!

It's appearing as a mainstream product for mainstream use as well of course as obvious benefits for people with physical movement challenges. 


Real step changes are also happening in the care environment.

The most impressive being a development known as MySense – a system designed to monitor health and well-being, whilst learning from the way we all live and amalgamating that in to its understanding of when and how best to alert users, friends and family for potential problems.

Nest doorbell

Smart home systems continue to improve apace and Nest comes to the UK with a smart doorbell.

The doorbell is compete with face recognition and continual learning so that it recognises friends, family and regular visitors.

Google Duplex

As many technology companies are doing, Google has invested in Artificial Intelligence.

This has led to showcasing a conversation between an artificially intelligent system and carrying out regular transactions with a human being who knows nothing about what is going on. 

See the exciting simplicity that is Google Duplex.


Blending human intervention with AI is also proving to be very powerful.

A new system beginning to roll out more globally is Aira, which on the face of it is a call centre that you contact using an app and by choice can wear smart glasses.

The operator can help you achieve whatever you’re trying to do — in the case of a blind person, navigate a foreign town or city or book and guide you to a taxi, with experimentation now taking place to support the wider disability community.

What most users are unaware of is that, in the background is Artificial Intelligence — learning from what the operator does and gradually beginning to take over the interaction with the user.


But technology is speeding along whilst regulators are struggling to keep up.  Most notably I would say in the transport sector.

The possibilities are endless in a world of driverless and autonomous vehicles but much of my time this year has been spent trying to get engagement with regulators so that we shape the world in the way we want it rather than technology being left to determine what the world is like.

Virutal technology

We may not have been worried 15 years ago about the demise of the high street and the challenges the retail sector is having now, largely as a result of online shopping — an inevitable process as Amazon set the bar around best in class experiences in the online retail sector.

We made no proactive decisions then about curbing excesses in this space and the consequences are there for every-one to see.

Perhaps it will become less of a problem as virtual reality means you can pick up and touch, smell, engage with a virtual product from a virtual shelf.

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