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Over 1 billion people living with physical or cognitive impairments currently need assistive technologies (AT) for increased independence and fuller interaction with their world.

As populations age and ATs converge with consumer electronics, many of those technologies initially designed for people with specific needs are adapting for use in larger markets through a wider array of new consumer goods.

We are now on the cusp of a future where autonomous wheelchairs, mind-controlled hearing aids and wearables monitoring health and emotion alleviate the impact of human limitations.With this important inflection point upon us, it is critical to understand the state of play.

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The WIPO Technology Trends 2021 report is the first large-scale landscaping and analysis of patenting and technology trends in AT.

Download the report

What are the most-popular assistive technologies?

Assistive technology encompasses a wide range of products spreading across 7 domains. Each domain is further divided into conventional and emerging technologies.

Built environment

With a 42% average annual growth rate in patent filings, the fastest growing area is emerging AT in the built environment domain (including smart homes, smart cities and assistive robots).


The more recent applications in the cognition domain are included in technologies under the emerging self-care and environment domains.  For example, smart medication management is a function in smart assistants..


Commomunication domain technologies have many applications in brain-machine/computer interfaces (BMI/BCI) used to control devices such as phones and computers.


Emerging technologies within this domain include alternatives to conventional hearing aids such as non-invasive bone/cartilage conduction and invasive implants to convey information directly to the brain stem.


Every year, more patents are filed for AT inventions in the mobility domain than for all other AT domains combined. Emerging applications include self-driving wheelchairs, smart canes, smart and 3-D printed prosthetics and exoskeletons


The main trend in this AT category is health and emotion monitoring devices.  Wearable (eg. smart clothes) and non-wearable (eg. smart mirrors or carpets) technologies  contribute to the independance and safety of the user and support telemedicine and smart nursing.


Smart eyeglasses provide assistance via computer vision to visually impaired persons to facilitate navigation in their environment.  Virtual and augmented reality applications are enhancing the aspects of the environment to support the visual acuity of the user.

Who is leading the race to market - and where?

Innovators in the AT space are a mix of large corporations, SMEs, individuals, start-ups, and universities. Most domains (with the exception of vision and hearing) are very fragmented with many players holding small portfolios.

Use our interactive dashboards to engage with our data. Identify trends by time, filing categories, geography and applicants.

How close are emerging assistive technologies to commercialization?

Use our interactive visualization platform to find out how close emerging ATs are to being commercialized.

This accessible platform combines information on patenting activity across emerging assistive technologies with the commercialization stage they are at. It provides a more complete picture on the readiness level of each technology as well as its expected impact, ease of adoption, societal acceptance, regulatory requirements and competition.