Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) has been around for some time, but Google’s Live Transcribe has brought ASR back into the spotlight. Available on computers, smartphones and tablets, these apps and services are invaluable to the hearing-impaired.
Speech-recognition software identifies spoken language and turns it into text. Some of them only recognise selected words and phrases, while the more sophisticated apps understand and transcribe live speech.
In this article, we look at four popular apps that can help the hearing-impaired, and some of their features.
1. Google’s Live Transcribe
Google’s Live Transcribe speech-recognition app facilitates accessibility for the hearing-impaired, and gives them access to conversations happening around them, in real time. Even if the app misses a word here and there, users can still get the gist of the conversation.
- In real time, transcribes from 70 languages and dialects, and can switch between them.
- Allows bilingual communication.
- Uses Google’s speech-recognition technology.
- Conversations are stored on your device (and not on a server) to increase privacy.
- Built-in collaboration with Gallaudet University, the world’s only university dedicated to the deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing.
- Runs on any device with Android 5.0 (or later).
- The text size is adjustable.
- The text box allows the user to type response and show the screen to others.
- Vibrating alert notifies the user when the conversation has restarted after a pause.
- The microphone source can be changed.
- Measures ambient noise levels to allow the user to move the microphone closer to the speaker if necessary.
Download the app: www.android.com/accessibility/live-transcribe/
2. Roger Voice
It’s true that apps for messaging and video calling, such as WhatsApp and FaceTime, have radically changed how people with profound hearing loss communicate. And yet, voice calls still play a prominent role in everyday life. RogerVoice generates real-time subtitles for voice calls. As long as the hearing-impaired person has the app installed on their phone, RogerVoice will transcribe any phone call.
- Available to Android and iOS users worldwide.
- The basic version of the app, which includes unlimited captioning between users who have the app installed, is free.
- Roger Voice offers 30 minutes of free calls with landlines and mobile phones that do not have the app. For any further use, the customer pays.
- The app features Automated Real-Time Captioning, meaning it transcribes telephone speech in real time on the user’s phone.
- Receives and transcribes calls from landlines and mobile phones that do not have the app downloaded.
- Has text-to-speech option if the user would rather not speak.
- Intuitive easy to use interface.
- Text can be enlarged.
- The microphone can be muted.
- Users can retrieve transcriptions of conversations by searching under contacts.
- Transcription accuracy is reported as good but not perfect.
- Automated Captured Videos – Subtitled video calls.
- Able to request an interpreter for calls.
Download the app: rogervoice.com/en/
TextHear is a speech-to-text app that converts conversation to text on a phone, tablet or laptop. This is done through speech-recognition software.
- The Android version is free, with unlimited use of the app.
- The iOS version is free to download and test for one minute. Thereafter transcription minutes have to be purchased.
- The microphone needs to be activated for transcription to begin.
- Punctuation and spacing are automatically added to aid comprehension.
- Text is archived for later reference.
- Supports over 100 languages and accents.
- Reviews of the app show it to be around 85% accurate in transcribing.
Download the app: texthear.com/
This speech-to-text app focuses on group conversations. Participants are required to add the app to their devices, and then select a conversation (group) to join. The group’s conversation will show up as text on their device, under each participant’s name. Ava also works for one-on-one conversations, when the phone’s microphone is held close to the person speaking.
- Android and iOS.
- Transcribes in real time.
- Allows for one-on-one and group conversations, provided everyone in the group has the app installed.
- The free option allows captioning of any live conversation for five hours per month, and allows the user to save transcriptions.
- The Premium and Pro packages allow unlimited use and various other benefits.
- Ava understands and transcribes 12 spoken languages.
Download the app: www.ava.me/
Which Is the Best Speech-Recognition App?
While Live Transcribe is relatively new, it appears to be the most seamless in its functionality, allowing for transcription and use to be more automatic, without much being required from the user. Its disadvantage is only being available on the Google platform.
Having tested most of these apps for the hearing-impared, we believe the challenge for developers is to achieve accuracy of transcription. It’s a mammoth task, considering the vast number of languages and accents to be incorporated.
Pros and cons aside, the single most important feature of these apps for the hearing-impaired is how they provide people with accessibility, both at home and at work.