Using augmented reality glasses, a startup company has built an exciting new product that allows deaf people to see subtitles to the conversations taking place around them in real-time.
What appears to just be an ordinary pair of glasses actually utilizes state-of-the-art technology developed by Amazon Alexa to instantly convert incoming audio into captions.
Dan Scarfe’s company Nreal took the software one step further by using augmented reality so that the user can literally see the captioning through the glasses.
Scarfe felt heartbroken when he saw his grandpa, who was 97 years old and had hearing loss, sitting still in a room on Christmas Day, surrounded by his family but unable to participate in the discussion as he was unable to hear anything that was being said.
“It’s got to the point now where he literally just sits in silence,” said Scarfe. “And I thought, well, hang on a second. He watches TV all the time with subtitles. Why can’t we subtitle the world?”
It only took him six months to debut the XRAI glasses, and it’s being hailed as a major breakthrough that will change people’s lives forever.
Even though the software has some issues when people are talking over one another, Scarfe is adamant that this is only the very beginning of what’s possible with the technology.
“We’re going with a small number to begin with to prove it out, to get the feedback, to understand what people like, what they don’t like, [and] rapidly innovate on that,” explained Scarfe. “And then we’re hoping if the winds are behind us, then we will reach general availability by September.”
The adaptability is remarkable considering that the advanced glasses themselves are nothing more than ordinary spectacles, plus a standard cable that is used to link them to your smartphone.
Both the Royal National Institute for the Deaf in the United Kingdom (RNID) and the nonprofit DeafKidz are also hailing the breakthrough as technology that will improve people’s lives.
“As a profoundly deaf person myself, I was blown away by this technology,” said Steve Crump, Founder and Chair, DeafKidz International. “When I tried on the glasses, I was astonished—real time subtitles that enable you to engage and participate as never before.”
The glasses have a potential user base of 12 million people and may already be purchased through a network of healthcare providers in the United Kingdom. They can also be financed for roughly £35 per month for 11 months.
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