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New Tech to Aid Hearing-Challenged Community in Malaysia

Live Transcribe Application
Image Credits: New Strait Times, News Article

The Live Transcribe accessibility app was created by an American multinational technology company specifically for members of the deaf and hard of hearing community. The app was unveiled earlier this year to allow people to communicate in situations where they might not otherwise be able to.

Most in-person conversations are sometimes difficult for deaf or hard of hearing individuals follow. The only way to communicate with somebody else is either through sign language or a professional interpreter.

Currently, the World Health Organisation estimates that there are 466 million people with this kind of disability. The is roughly 15 times the population of Malaysia. It appears that this number is increasing. As people’s lifespans increase, this community is expected to grow to almost a billion by 2055. Hence, there is a need to ensure all members of the community can be accommodated.

Live Transcribe Features

  • Like its namesake, this mobile app uses a phone’s microphone to automatically transcribe real-time speech into captions.
  • The app is available in over 70 languages and dialects. It enables two-way conversation via a type-back keyboard for users who can’t or don’t want to speak, and can switch between two languages at a time.
  • The app can also support dialects of certain popular languages like English and Spanish. The reason the firm ships with this special feature of supporting multiple languages at the same time is because there are more multilingual households in the world than monolingual.
  • Even in Malaysia, it is very common for people to switch between Malay and English in the same conversation, especially when they know both languages.
  • There is a blue circle indicator that detects the loudness and noise volume level of the speaker’s voice relative to the noise of the environment on the right corner of the app.
  • Another aspect is sound events. Live Transcribe can detect sounds like clapping, knocking, dog barking and much more in the user’s surrounding.
  • The tech firm has also added a water sound detection feature. Apparently, some deaf people are scared about leaving the tap on when they go to the bathroom because they cannot hear the sound and often forget to close the tap.
  • Hence, instead of becoming paranoid and constantly checking their bathroom tap, they can use the app. This has helped avoid high water bills or flooding in many cases.
  • Another feature is the ability to save the transcription such as one-on-one conversations and meetings among small groups. It allows the user to save the transcript for up to three days. If there is a need to keep the transcripts longer than that, the user can just copy and paste them to other platforms.

Using the Power of AI

  • Existing professional hearing aid is exorbitant, costing between US$1,000 and US$5,000. This can often be debilitating to somebody’s lifestyle as most people cannot afford it.
  • Usually, AI is synonymous with business. However, the new aim is to develop tech that is more impactful as it goes into many social good arenas and applications that can directly help people.
  • The app is smart enough to recognise the context behind certain words. During a demonstration, it understood the difference between New Jersey, the place, versus new jersey as in new clothing that you’re going to buy.
  • For example, if a person says “I would like to have a table for two at 2pm,” the app understands the difference between the first two which means two people versus the second two, which is the time and transcribes it correctly.
  • The app was developed from the firm’s cloud-based speech recognition model. It is the result of decade-long research gathered from other products to help people recognise speech across different languages.
  • The transcribing process happens within 200 milliseconds — from the audio to the system, and through the user’s phone to Google’s cloud servers, and back to the phone.
  • This ensures the user gets the caption or text back in an instant for them to be able to participate in the conversation instead of becoming passive listeners.
  • The tech firm also partnered with the world’s premier university for the deaf and hard of hearing, which is also the inventor of the American Sign Language. The university provided feedback on Live Transcribe so that it meets the needs of these communities.
  • In terms of education, the app has been considered revolutionary as it is helping create a more inclusive society where people of all abilities have access to the opportunities they need to thrive and succeed.
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