System called SpeakSee makes it easier for deaf people to participate in a conversation

There are many speech-to-text apps and hearing aids that are available for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Now a new system called SpeakSee goes one step further.

Developed by a Dutch startup, SpeakSee enables deaf people to take part in regular conversations.

This is important as people who are deaf and hard of hearing sometimes find it difficult to take part in group conversations or business meetings. There can be many reasons for this like their hearing aids do not work well when there are loud background noises, or it could happen when many people speak together.

Speech-to-text apps are also not useful when it comes to instant conversation. The setup needs to download a speech recognition app, then request the person to speak loudly with the phone closer to the mouth. Here too, background noise can affect the quality of voice.

SpeakSee promises to change that by including everyone in a conversation. It has a set of portable state-of-the-art microphones that transcribe speech-to-text in real time using speech recognition. The device can even insert automatic punctuation and comes with a facility to add a customized dictionary.

The system consists of three Wi-Fi wireless clip-on microphones, but it can take up to nine mics, a mic charging dock, and an iOS or Android app. Each mic is clipped to the shirt of a speaker participating in a conversation.

The SpeakSee device uses a unidirectional system to identify the particular speaker’s speech. The system will not pick up any background sound, or other people’s dialogues.

A user can also directly connect the SpeakSee device to a phone, TV or conference system by using an external audio input device and transcribe the audio.

How it works

The microphones transfer the audio content to the docking station. It processes the dialogues spoken in the different mics and transmits the audio via Wi-Fi on the deaf user’s smartphone app. The app then transcribes the audio data into text that is displayed on the mobile screen in real time. The SpeakSee system uses different colours and names to indicate which dialogue is spoken by whom.

The system encrypts all the transcripts so that no one can go through the conversation except the deaf user. This ensures privacy.

SpeakSee supports 120 languages, but the speech recognition results are better with the English language. The transcription fee is free for first five hours of audio and then the charges are $10 a month (about Rs 700).

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