All his life, Josh Feldman has relied on lip reading to figure out what someone is saying – but this week a new product that provides real-time transcriptions has allowed him to follow a conversation without even seeing a person’s face. the other person.
Born hard of hearing, Feldman became accustomed to lip-reading while socializing. But it can be hard to keep up in a world that often doesn’t welcome people who are deaf or hard of hearing, especially during a pandemic in which face masks have been a necessity.
Enter the first pair of glasses to come with its own subtitles: Nreal smart glasses.
Feldman is one of the first to preview the glasses. Sitting on a sofa, wearing what looked like a thick pair of black sunglasses, he carried on a conversation with a man seated to his right.
“I guess you most often ask people, what did someone say, you know?” asked the other man.
“One hundred percent,” Feldman replied, without turning to face him. “These are the changes that occur in the setting of hearing loss.”
How was it possible? As the other man spoke, his words appeared in white text inside Feldman’s glasses, allowing him to read and respond in real time.
“People who are hard of hearing would understand the feeling I had when I had this conversation, which lasted about five minutes,” Feldman said. “And I didn’t look at the person to my right once, and I only looked ahead – it’s a life-changing moment.”
A UK startup called XRAI Glass is behind the technology that could allow millions of deaf or hard of hearing people to see in-person conversations they can’t hear.
The glasses use augmented reality (AR) technology, and a phone app provides live transcription. Currently, the app is only supported on Android, but the company is also seeking approval for iPhone use.
“To have a conversation while you’re not looking at the person you’re talking to,” Feldman said. “Wow. Wow,”
He can also read conversations he has on the phone if the phone is on speakerphone so the glasses can pick up the audio, and according to the company’s website, he can translate any language.
The concept is particularly useful during the COVID-19 pandemic: those who wear face masks cover their mouths, making lip-reading impossible.
“Having something like these glasses, where it takes away the barrier of the mask, that they can actually see what’s being said…it’s really effective and it would really make a difference to someone,” said Teri Devine, director associated with inclusion. at the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.
The technology isn’t perfect – it’s less reliable in a group setting when people talk to each other.
“I think the real breakthrough will be when we have smart contact lenses,” said Dan Scarfe, Founder and CEO of XRAI Glass. “It will be the thing that will really revolutionize space. Their very first prototypes have just been released and they will be generalized in the next two to three years.
The glasses will be available to the public from September.