Google makes Assistant’s voice features easier to use to help people with disabilities
Google has tied with leading accessibility firm Tobii Dynavoxto to integrate Google Assistant into the company’s Snap Core First line of dedicated tablets and mobile apps.
Now people who have trouble speaking can use Assistant to control home appliances and other smart home products.
Tobii, a manufacturer and distributor of speech-generating devices, is one of the best companies known for creating speech synthesis and eye-tracking devices.
Tobii is best known for its eye-tracking applications for consumer electronics devices such as notebooks and VR headsets via a separate subsidiary known as Tobii Tech. But a number of these exact inventions power Tobii Dynavox’s line of speech synthesis tablets as well as its companion software suite, each of which is frequently used in the accessibility and assistive technology spaces.
The touchscreen devices will let users customize a screen of icons that can produce words and vocal snippets, allowing users with developmental disabilities or motor function impairments to communicate either through touching the icons or by using just their eyes.
As Google Assistant required users to use their voice to access many of the platform’s features, it was not easily accessible to people who are unable to issue vocal commands. However, the new Tobii integration will make it easy to control Google devices using one of Tobii’s speech synthesis machines, with custom button options to control music playback on an Assistant speaker. The speech synthesis devices will give commands directly to the Google device, making sure that the smart speaker or display can carry out the request of things like – turning on lights in a room, queuing up a playlist on Spotify.
Tobii Dynavox CEO Fredrik Ruben said in a statement, “Our mission is to empower people with disabilities to do what they once did or never thought possible. It provides users with the possibility to communicate, control their surrounding environment, and receive the same access to education and information as anyone else. We are highly pleased to get into this partnership with Google and collectively develop technologies that are more accessible to everyone.”
Google is also going integrate Tobii Dynavox’s library of tens of thousands of pictograms — the visual symbols that translate to a desired word, phrase, or action that can be programmed onto Tobii’s tablet line and into its existing Action Blocks platform. Introduced last year, Action Blocks let users boil down a complex series of actions on an Android phone or tablet, like opening the phone app and dialing a contact in their favorites list, into a big button that can sit on the home screen where it’s more easily accessible.