“What the technology will enable you to do is bridge the gap between able and disabled.”
– Dr. Hugh Bradlow, Chief Scientist, Telstra
Transpire created two world-first Google Glass apps for Telstra to showcase their work in accessibility and innovation. The vision was to use Google Glass as a way to give everyone the opportunity to connect with the world around them, irrespective of their visual or hearing difficulties. The apps use groundbreaking technology to help the hearing and visually impaired users become more independent in their personal and professional lives. The vision-impaired app using Google Glass enables users to receive audio descriptions of objects in front of them, while the hearing-impaired app transcribes speech.
Telstra came to Transpire with the insight that there are over 4 million Australians living with vision and hearing impairments. Further Transpire research showed that those with disabilities are often the last to benefit from advances in technology. This represented an opportunity for Telstra to showcase its innovative thinking and be a thought leader in accessibility and inclusion.
Transpire spent time talking with Telstra employees living with vision and hearing impairments to understand how they utilise technology and where they experienced friction when trying to get their work done. Through this process of immersion Transpire discovered that, while smartphones provide some accessibility features, the process was often clunky and could be vastly improved.
As the first developers in Australia with access to the platform, we recommended Google Glass as a way to replicate some of a smartphone’s accessibility functions in a more natural “heads-up” fashion. As the platform was so new, Transpire needed to develop custom Android software to enable Google Glass to talk to an Android device, as well as interface with a cloud database for image recognition and voice transcription.
Google Glass to talk to an Android device, as well as interface with a cloud database for image recognition and voice transcription.
The vision and hearing impaired app project gives Google Glass wearers a set of unique tools. The vision-impaired app enables users to receive audio descriptions of objects in front of them. It’s as simple as a user looking at any object and saying “Ok Glass, what’s this?” Glass will take a picture, send it to the cloud for advanced image recognition software to process the image and instantly send back a description of what the user is looking it. Glass will then read the description in the user’s ear, such as ‘it is a 20 dollar note’.
The hearing-impaired app also transcribes speech for people who have hearing difficulties, allowing them to follow a conversation, such as a meeting or a speech at a conference. Using voice recognition software on an accompanying smartphone or laptop, Glass displays what is being said in a format similar to subtitles.
As the Google Glass platform was only ever a beta prototype for Google, the product never went into production. However, the innovative prototype received widespread media coverage and was warmly received by the hearing and visually impaired community, who saw big potential in its application. The project also won Best Connected Device and Wearable Tech at the 2014 Australian Mobile and App Awards.