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19 Oct, 2014 20:56

New app lets deaf people ‘hear’ group conversations

New app lets deaf people ‘hear’ group conversations

Researchers have developed the first mobile app to make group conversations possible between deaf people and their hearing peers. The Transcense app “listens” and interprets conversations, providing real-time captioning on mobile devices.

The app was developed by researchers from Berkeley, along with University of San Francisco graduates from the US, France, the Netherlands, and Taiwan. They say the app makes group conversations “possible and effortless” for the hearing impaired.

Transcense connects multiple smartphones belonging to conversation participants in a room and leverages their microphones so the app can “listen” to those speaking.

The researchers used the most advanced speech recognition systems so the app could transcribe the conversation immediately onto a screen.

A hearing impaired person can also use the app to respond and get the attention of a group by using a personalized digital voice.

Image from indiegogo.com

“It’s a really fantastic development, to just be included, and feel included,” said Josephine Schallehn of the Hearing Loss Association.

Each of the developers has experienced the hardships associated with being hearing impaired in their own way. One was born into a deaf family. Another is deaf and a non-signer, while two more learned American sign language.

“Every day, 360 million people are left out from group conversations because of hearing loss,” said the developers. “We thought we could do better.”

The team has been developing Transcense technology for over a year. The researchers say they have consulted over 300 people – including audiologists, deaf and hard of hearing people, and seniors, as well as speech and behavioral design experts – to help them with their research.

They are currently raising money on Indiegogo to bring the innovative app to market. The campaign started on October 13 and will close on November 12. They have already raised about 80 percent of their $25,000 goal.