Tech

Google Look to Speak lets users use their eyes to communicate

Google - Appy Pie

The experimental App will focus on making communication easier for people with speech and motor impairments.

The new Look to Speak app is available on Google Play for all Android smartphones and tablets and is compatible with Android 9.0 or higher, as well as Android One devices. The device being used should have a front-facing camera.

The app will help users with motor and speech impairments to communicate. Such people require the aid of specialized speech devices to communicate with their family, friends, and caregivers. The app functions through eye-tracking, and it allows the users to type sentences or select phrases without touch or voice controls.

Users control Look to Speak app by looking off-screen to the left or right to filter through a set of phrases and select the one they want. It takes very few eye movements to select a sentence.

The app will work on a mobile device in support of sophisticated assistive technologies. After keeping the phone slightly below the eye level, a user looks left or right to choose from the list of phrases, which the device speaks aloud. The phrases on the app can be personalized to let users share their authentic voices. According to Google, all data in the Look to Speak app is personal and never leaves the phone.

Richard Cave, a speech and language therapist at Google, works with people who have speech and motor impairments, especially with people who are nonverbal and need aid and assistance for communicating.

Cave remarked, “It’s more than a job for me, it’s a passion. Every day, I make an attempt to help people find easier and more accessible ways to express their needs, opinions, feelings, and identity.”

One drawback is the app’s setup helper menu, which is where the phrases can be edited and the gaze settings can be fine-tuned, is not accessible by eye gaze and requires manual tapping on the phone’s screen.

Cave said that Look to Speak reached out to people who could benefit from the app and found it was helpful in environments where other accessibility devices may not be usable like in the shower, outdoors, or in urgent situations.

He further added, “Now conversations can more easily happen where before there might have been silence, and I’m excited to hear some of them.”

Look to Speak is simple to set up and to use. The first time users open the app, they will be greeted by a tutorial screen that will walk you through the process, which includes finding the right mounting location and viewing angle, calibrating the eye-tracking settings, and taking a few tests to get a feel for how the app works.

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