The Android Accessibility team announced the Live Transcribe app for deaf and hard-of-hearing users. The app is currently being tested on the Play Store and will be pushed to all Pixel 3 users in the next update.
While Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) has been around for a while, it has grown increasingly sophisticated over time through deep learning. These improvements have culminated in Live Transcribe, a new accessibility feature that’s powered by Google Cloud, letting hearing-impaired users follow along with a conversation happening around them in real-time. You can read about the finer nitty gritties of this technology over at the Google AI blog.
The app has been developed with help from Gallaudet University, the world’s only university designed around the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
With conversations around the phone, the app can pick up most of what is said. Even when the transcription missed a word or two, you could get the gist of the conversation. The text size is adjustable, and there’s a text box for you to type out a response and show others in the room. If the conversation stops for a while and then resumes, the phone can vibrate to alert you. You can change the microphone source, even setting it to listen from a pair of headphones or a wearable device.
The app should work on any device running Android 5.0 or newer. The Live Transcribe page calls the app a closed beta and wants people to join a waiting list, but we were able to install it from the Play Store.