Google has heard the needs of people with hearing impairment and has two new apps that may make it easier to help them navigate the world more easily.
Back in May at the Google developer conference, the company announced an app called Sound Amplifier, which is now available. The app basically turns your phone (headphone or smartphone) into a hearing aid, by filtering, augmenting, and amplifying sounds. It is designed to improve the clarity of speech by filtering out ambient and unwanted noise, without increasing the volume of sounds that are already loud. To make it even more useful, it works without an internet connection, too.
Google also announced Live Transcribe, which Google says brings “captions to conversations” by transcribing speech in real time using a smartphone’s microphone and an internet connection. It makes it possible for people with hearing loss to read a text version of what was said in 70 different languages. Privacy advocates should note that Google claims it will not save transcripts or any of the audio or text data it uses for the service on its servers. The service, which was designed with help from the community at Gallaudet University, the top-ranked university for deaf and hard of hearing people, isn’t quite ready to launch yet. Sign up here to be notified when it is available.
Sound Amplifier and Live Transcribe are radically inclusive ideas, but they are also just good business for Google, as the World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2055, there will be 900 million people with hearing loss.
As Technology Review points out, these new apps are the latest sign of Google’s expansion into language processing, which includes Interpreter Mode, the live translation add-on they introduced to Google Assistant called last month.