24 February 2019
Google has started rolling out two new features for Android phones that could help 900 million people around the world who according to the World Health Organization will suffer from hearing loss by the year 2055. The new features for Android are called Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier.
The Live Transcribe app, takes real-world speech and turns it into real-time captions via a phone’s microphone, while the Sound Amplifier helps filter, augment and amplify sounds in the user’s environment. The app increases quiet sounds and can be customized, with sliders and toggles to minimize noise distractions in the background.
Sound Amplifier will be available to Android users in the Play Store from today. Google says Live Transcribe app will start rolling out in a limited beta from today via the Google Play Store. The new apps will also come pre-installed on the new Pixel 3 devices, and users can sign up here to be notified when they will be made more widely available. Google has stated that the Sound Amplifier will also come pre-installed on Pixel 3.
In a company blog post today, Google states that the apps have been designed with the work of Dimitri Kanevsky, a research scientist at the company who has been working on speech recognition and communications technology for over 30 years. “Through his work, Dimitri — who has been deaf since early childhood — has helped shape the accessibility technologies he relies on. One of them is CART: A service where a captioner virtually joins a meeting to listen and create a transcription of spoken dialogue, which then displays on a computer screen. Dimitri’s teammate, Chet Gnegy, saw the challenges Dimitri faced using CART: He always carried multiple devices, it was costly and each meeting required a lot of preparation. This meant Dimitri could only use CART for formal business meetings or events, and not everyday conversations.”
Google posts further, “We thought: What if we used cloud-based automatic speech recognition to display spoken words on a screen? A prototype was built and Googlers across a bunch of our offices — from Mountain View to Taipei — got involved. The result is Live Transcribe, an app that takes real-world speech and turns it into real-time captions using just the phone’s microphone.”
Google states that the app will give people who have hearing disability greater independence in their everyday interactions.