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“Weren’t you paying attention during the meeting? Didn’t you hear what needs to be done?” Does this sound familiar to you, or can you think of someone in your work experience this statement pertains to? There are many reasons one might miss important information in work meetings. One reason might be a result of hearing loss. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reported in the Quick Statistics (2016) fact sheet that about 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from hearing aids. Hearing loss can happen at any age, resulting from various causes, and effecting hearing to various degrees.

Fluent English speakers (or fluent speakers of any language) tend to speak quickly. Trying to listen to someone speaking rapidly, especially about information that might be novel and/or of great importance, can be stressful. Adding the need to try and monitor the speaker’s mouth for lip reading can make the task even more daunting. Now consider when the speaker is trying to make eye contact with everyone within a group meeting or turning around to interact with presentation materials. Most stressful is a group discussion when one must distinguish between speakers and track what is being said.

If only there was a way to have real-time transcripts to easily follow. Jari Hazeleback and his team took on the challenge and created Speaksee, a device that transcribes speech into text in real time for a group of one to nine speakers. Each speaker wears a color-coded microphone device. The person receiving the transcripts can read the text on their Android or iOS device. The transcript appears like message bubbles that are color coded so the reader can identify the person speaking, allowing for easier tracking of the conversation.

Many apps used within the hearing assistive technology realm require all who are interacting to download the app. Speaksee does not require this, only the receiver needs the app. The other participants will need the hardware microphones, which resemble a small rectangle, to attach to clothing around the neck area. The microphones are noise canceling, so they can be used within noisy environments. Speaksee can also be used with conference call-systems and plugged into smartphones. Jari’s team is multi-lingual and the speech-to-text can be used with a long list of languages (view their website).

Work is not the only environment one might desire to easily participate in a group conversation. Speaksee will also benefit the educational setting, and the home setting. Family dinners, outings with friends, and any type of group engagement might now be easier and more enjoyable for those who can benefit from Speaksee.

Currently, Speaksee is in the pre-order phase and I am not privy to the projected cost. Visit the website or contact the Speaksee team to inquire more. View the promotional video for more insight.

What are your thoughts? This concept addresses an important concern for many people. Speech-to-text helps many people communicate and has advanced greatly in ease and accuracy over the past years. However, those who have or still use it also know it can make mistakes and sometimes the accuracy depends on the annunciation of the speaker. It will be interesting to watch the emergence of Speaksee into the assistive technology field.


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Tags: Deaf, Hard, Hearing, Microphone, Text-to-Speech, of

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Comment by Adrienne Kleinman on January 23, 2019 at 3:55am

This is so fascinating, Erika! Thank you for sharing. 

Comment by Great Lakes ADA Center on January 16, 2019 at 4:28pm

What a great idea!  I had a questions similar to this just today.  Thanks for sharing Erika.

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