Hearing-impaired Google Glass wearers can get closed captioning in real life thanks to Georgia Tech's new app.
There's been no shortage of negativity surrounding the wearable computer Google Glass, from the dangers of using the glasses while driving to the manufacturer's own urging not to be a "glasshole." Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, on the other hand, have found a positive use for Google Glass: displaying closed captioning for real-life conversations in order to help the hearing impaired.
As shown in the video, adding closed captioning requires the use of a separate smartphone app. This companion Android app, called Captioning on Glass, converts the speech to text and sends it to the Glass, where it appears on the display. According to Jim Foley, a professor at Georgia Tech's School of Interactive Computing, the app lets the wearer focus on the speaker while filling in any blanks with a text transcription. "If hard-of-hearing people understand the speech, the conversation can continue immediately without waiting for the caption. However, if I miss a word, I can glance at the transcription, get the word or two I need and get back into the conversation."
From the video, it's easy to see that this isn't quite a perfect system, as the need to speak into a separate device and wait for that to be transcribed creates unnatural gaps in the conversation. Professor Thad Starner says the companion app is necessary for the system to work, however. "Glass has its own microphone, but it's designed for the wearer... The mobile phone puts a microphone directly next to the speaker's mouth, reducing background noise and helping to eliminate errors." The speaker can also edit any errors in transcription, although presumably that would only further slow down the discussion.
With a starting price of $1,500 and plenty of establishments banning its use, Google Glass is far from mainstream. That's a steep price to pay just to wear a computer on your face--but for the hearing impaired, $1,500 might be worth it to be able to converse (almost) normally again.