SINGAPORE (Nov 19): It was particularly moving as Saqib Shaikh took to the stage at the start of the Singapore FinTech Festival 2018 on Nov 12. The air of anticipation had been thick in the packed hall as the audience eagerly awaited the opening address by Ravi Menon, managing director of organiser Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). Instead, up stepped Shaikh — a software engineer at Microsoft, who had lost his sight when he was just seven years old. And if his role was to rally support for Singapore’s dream of becoming a fintech hub, Shaikh did not disappoint.

Far from being hamstrung by his disability, Shaikh decided he could make a real change. In the last 13 years at Microsoft, he worked on various mainstream products, including virtual assistant Cortana. Then, acting on his passion for using artificial intelligence to improve the world of disabled people, Shaikh created Seeing AI — an app that can verbally describe images and currencies, read out documents and signs, and recognise friends.

The way Shaikh sees it, disabilities are the drivers of innovation. And he envisions the possibility of a future where wearables would bring together the best of humanity and technology to make a better world.

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