Case Study

Cognitive augmentation for people with neurodiversity and cognitive disability


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 12.8% of all American adults have a cognitive disability, with serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions; nearly 1 in 4 U.S. adults have some form of disability [1].

In countries with nationalized health systems like Australia, over 1.6 percent of total GDP is allocated to supporting people with disability [2]. Nearly 70% of all participants have a cognitive disability, autism spectrum, or psychosocial disability as their primary diagnosis [3]. Disability is a growing problem, in the last decade rates of autism in children have nearly doubled to 1 in 36 as of 2020 [4].

[1] CDC Report on adult disability and health
[2] According to the NDIS Annual Financial Sustainability Report 2022-23(AFSR)
[3] NDIA 2020 'Getting out into the world' report
[4] CDC report on Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Challenge

Cognitive disability is very prevalent, but is largely ignored in society. People with intellectual disability have significantly reduced wellbeing across many domains. Disabled persons also have significant comorbidity of health issues, are nearly four times more lonely when compared with non-disabled persons [5], are almost twice as likely to be unemployed [6], and have significantly lower life expectancies. Even in developed countries with robust healthcare systems, increasing rates of autism, costs of therapy, scarcity of workers, and lifetime costs of care are a growing tide facing health systems and governments.

[5] Disability, well-being and loneliness, UK: 2019
[6] People with disability in Australia, AIHW
[7] Mortality Risk Associated With Disability, PubMed

How Akin Helped

Akin has developed a cognitive augmentation AI called Pixi. We spent 2 years in participatory co-design, consulting and responding to people with disabilities, instilled with the philosophy 'nothing about us without us'.

We developed an interactive AI, Pixi, that exists in an embodiment of choice (voice, tablet, app, avatar etc.) . Pixi supports social connections, goals, daily living activities, healthy living (meal planning and exercise), and community participation. These AI are in use today, and are currently scaling up.

In addition, we have partnered with the Sydney university's Brain Mind Centre and Westmead hospital to undertake large-scale clinical trials on the use of assistive AI to optimize outcomes, independence and capacity building.

"We are really excited because Akin has technology that can be embedded in the person’s daily life for them to set their own goals. It’s about self care. Its about independent living, it’s about engaging with others...

We are going to be able to see whether the supports being provided actually do make a difference, and if they're not, what needs to change for that individual. There’s nothing like that in the world today, and that's why we are working with Akin."

Professor Adam Guastella,
- Westmead Children’s Hospital, Sydney University Brain Mind Centre