Present Pal lands Microsoft grant to develop AI feature

A Glasgow-based tech start-up has landed a Microsoft grant to help develop speech-enabled features for its communication-enhancing app.

Present Pal founder and chief executive Chris Hughes said the grant will 'boost the software's intelligence and sophistication'. Picture: Contributed

Presentation support app Present Pal is among the first round of grantees awarded an AI (artificial intelligence) for Accessibility grant. The start-up aims to empower presenters to communicate accurately, regardless of individual abilities.

It integrates with Microsoft PowerPoint and guides users through their presentation using “unique, dyslexia-friendly features”, such as interactive flashcards, and tools for those with visual impairments, such as pop up bubbles and colour overlays.

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The grant, from the $25 million (£19m) AI for Accessibility programme, will provide Present Pal with AI tools and cloud computing services to accelerate its work on a new feature which can recognise when a presenter is struggling to recall information and will enable AI-powered audio prompts and pop ups.

Founder and chief executive Chris Hughes, who developed the idea for the app while at the University of Strathclyde, said: “Technology has such an important role to play in ensuring that people with disabilities are empowered to communicate effortlessly.

“The usage of AI and machine learning within Present Pal will allow us to really understand the needs and behaviour of presenters, providing the data to assist and enhance communication skills in the terrifying moments of presenting to your peers.

“We are already supporting students with learning differences in universities across the UK through our existing version of the app, but funded access to Microsoft’s AI tools will really boost the software’s intelligence and sophistication. We are delighted to receive this grant and begin a partnership with Microsoft and are looking forward to sharing our journey of enhancing the lives of people with disabilities.”