Two new mobile apps being rolled out today, Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier, are aimed at the 466 million people—more than 5 per cent of the world’s population—who are deaf or hard of hearing. The Live Transcribe app uses Google’s cloud-based, speech-to-text intelligence to offer text representations of spoken conversations as they’re happening, while Sound Amplifier relies on an Android-based dynamic audio processing effect to make speech and other sounds easier to hear.
During a demonstration with the press last month, a group of Google product managers showed how their presentations could be transcribed into text in near real-time by Live Transcribe. In another corner of the room, Google had engineered a hearing loss simulator as part of the demo of Sound Amplifier. Slip on a set of headphones, and a Google employee cranked the simulator to reduce your hearing abilities. By using the new app, testers could swipe on a series of sliders to adjust volume, ambient noise, voice clarity, and the distribution of sound to the left and right ears.
It’s easy to imagine a not-so-distant future when accessibility apps like these are increasingly aware of a person’s needs and become self-adjusting. Google research scientist Dimitri Kanevsky, who has been deaf since age one, had a conversation with a colleague about an upcoming party while using Live Transcribe on his personal phone.