The face of mobile technology has changed so much over the past few years and as the parent of a child with total vision loss, I see all too clearly some of the shortcomings for special needs users. Google have delivered two apps aimed at assisting users who are deaf or hearing impaired.
Aimed at users are deaf to allow them to participate in conversations more readily. The premise is very simple, it will record your audio feed from the microphone, anything that is not immediately obvious will check against databases and show on screen the flow of the conversation in near real time – it’s as simple as starting the app up, which will then enable the microphone and begin transcribing the surrounding conversations to your screen.
The main catch here is that it requires an active internet connection for the language database checks mentioned above but if you need a tool like this then having a plentiful data supply is a small price to pay for opening the world up. Another catch is (perhaps not unexpected) that in a noisy environment you’ll struggle to capture sound well, but you can keep an eye on the pulsing blue dot in the top right to give an indication of the ambient noise vs conversation to ensure you’re getting the best results possible.
In my limited testing so far, the app is outstanding in terms of the accuracy of the audio capture and text display but also the grammar and punctuation that it displays for users.
Designed to work with wired headphones only, without need for internet connection in a relatively closed environment the app is essentially a hearing assistant where you can use your phone’s microphone to amplify sound and conversation around you selectively for your ears and eliminate some of the surrounding noises. The app doesn’t work on wireless headphones yet, but perhaps that’s deliberate to avoid queries about it being a potential eavesdropping tool for users?
There’s a bit of a catch on this one too: It only works on Android Pie for now and once installed on your device is integrated into the accessibility settings of your device which is a really smart way to handle the option.
Working in the disability sector I can already see broad reaching uses for these apps and it’s wonderful to see Google making not just mobile tech, but the community as a whole more accessible to those who need assistance.