Google Tests Voice Assistant for People With Speech Impairments
Google has begun beta testing an app designed to help those with speech impairments use Google Assistant. The new Project Relate app for Android has started taking applications from adults with difficulty being understood to participate in refining the tool while contributing to Google’s speech recognition technology improvements.
Project Relate is looking for English speakers in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, for now. Those chosen for the beta will get to download the app but will then need to record 500 phrases for the AI to use to learn how they speak. The recording will take up to an hour and a half, according to Google. Once set up, the Relate app should be able to carry out some common voice assistant tasks regardless of speech impairments.
Project Relate’s central feature offers a connection to Google Assistant. Someone who has trouble making Google Assistant understand them can use the app to relay accurate orders to the voice assistant to operate smart home devices or pose questions. The app is also testing a transcription feature for real-time speech-to-text, a repeat function that will restate what the user says in a synthesized voice to make the user more understandable to people around them.
“For millions of people, being able to speak and be understood can be difficult as a result of conditions that can impact speech, including stroke, ALS, Cerebral Palsy, traumatic brain injury or Parkinson’s disease. Today, we’re inviting an initial group of people to test Project Relate, a new Android app that aims to help people with speech impairments communicate more easily with others and interact with the Google Assistant,” Google AI project manager Julie Cattiau explained in a blog post. “Project Relate is a continuation of years of research from both Google’s Speech and Research teams, made possible by over a million speech samples recorded by participants of our research effort.”
The new app builds on Google’s Project Euphonia efforts to train voice assistants to understand people with unique speech patterns. Projects Relate and Euphonia are parts of Google’s ongoing rollout of accessibility features. The Android Action Blocks feature, Voice Access service, Lookout reader, and Google Assistant shortcuts all offer continually upgraded accessibility. Meanwhile, Alexa can be directly controlled by those with speech impairments thanks to Amazon’s partnership with speech recognition technology startup Voiceitt, which also offers an iOS app to help people with atypical and impaired speech communicate. Apple has dipped its toe in the field, researching techniques to help Siri know when someone is stuttering to compensate and ensure it doesn’t interrupt or misunderstand the user.