Special specs with live subtitles for hard of hearing
Together with the help of engineer Michiel van Overbeek who himself is hard of hearing language researcher Niels Schiller of Leiden University developed a pair of glasses that provides live subtitles during one-on-one conversations. The glasses display the translated conversation on the inside of the glass with a delay of some hundred milliseconds per word and at a rate of 172 words a minute. Film subtitling, which is commonplace in the Netherlands, runs at 120 to 160 words a minute.
Schiller claims this could really change the daily lives of people who are deaf and hard of hearing, especially the elderly who are not eligible for a cochlear implant and who have issues learning sign language. After testing the glasses, their comprehension went from 25% of a conversation to between 70% and 85%.
However, just like other translation devices, the glasses still get it wrong quite a bit and the speech recognition microphone doesn’t always work the way it should. Schiller points out that like when using autocorrect on an app, the person with the glasses on has to correct some words within the context. In the future, the glasses could be used when visiting a foreign country where a person can’t speak the language, and place a light on the outside of them so the person talking knows when the translation has been completed.
I trust a lot of issues have to be addressed: what happens when the wearer already wears glasses? Durability? Price? Quality of speech recognition in busy and loud places? And there’s nothing wrong sign language although the Dutch have five sign language dialects.