Google Gives $20 Million to Fight Disabilities With High Tech

Ever the philanthropic innovator, tech giant Google has recently pledged $20 million to back nonprofit organizations in coming up with high tech solutions that will help those living with disabilities. The company launched a program Tuesday, titled “Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities,” allowing organizations to seek out this collaborative opportunity.

High tech solutions: Google.org’s newest undertaking

This program was launched through the company’s Google.org charitable branch — which aims to commit millions in investments and grants — and is there to work alongside numerous nonprofits to employ high-tech solutions. To participate in the program, NGOs will have to pitch their ideas for high tech prosthetic devices and applications, from which Google will then select the most promising ones. These projects will receive backing in the form of full funding and access to important resources.

One of the most remarkable projects so far has been spearheaded by the Enable Community, whose team has undertaken the process of revolutionizing the use of 3D printers to construct upper-limb prosthetic limbs. Google.org has funded the organization with $600,000 to continue its quest in designing, printing and assembling these prosthetic devices, as well as to help with distributing and delivering the 3D-printed limbs to those in need. Each of the prosthetic devices will be sold at a more affordable price, at around $100.

Other high tech collaborations in the works

Google has also funded World Wide Hearing with $500,000, to come up with highly accessible diagnosis kits to distribute throughout lower-income countries. The kit will use smartphone technology to identify specific hearing problems, as well as equip users with hearing aids.

In another effort, Google X (the company’s semi-secret research branch) has designed a specialized spoon that those suffering with Parkinson’s disease can use to feed themselves.

Planning for a high tech future

Google.org has funded charitable collaborations like this in the recent past — Mission Arm, one of the other organizations, has received funds from Google to work on 3D-printed prosthetic limbs. The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is developing, with the help of Google, “smart glasses” for those in need of vision-centered technology.

In the past, those affected by physical disabilities have relied on appliances and technologies that were bulky or limiting. Now, with the advent of high tech solutions like the ones Google is backing, that’s about to change.

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