Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: Assistive Tools for Deaf and Dumb (Voice to Text)
4 points by ashraymalhotra 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 6 comments
I was talking to a friend who's cousin has been deaf and dumb since birth. They tried giving her "implants" to make her hear but the background noise made it intolerable. Given the breakthrough in Voice to text technologies recently, I took it for granted that she would be able to understand any conversation around but apparently she isn't able to make out anything people say and sometimes gets sad because of that (on quite a few occasions she can successfully lip read though).

Something even as simple as a continuous background voice to text converter, and when she wants to "talk" a text to voice converter should be much better for her than her current status (my assumption is she always has a laptop or mobile screen in front of her).

This should be as simple as integrating some Voice to text and text to voice APIs from anywhere (say Google cloud, assuming internet connectivity isn't a problem?)

This seems incredibly basic and I assume systems like this should exist! If not, I could hack it over a weekend. Could you please link me to the existing tools you know to solve this problem for folks with hearing problems?

There are quite a few options. I am not deaf, but I did quite a bit of damage when I was young and stupid. Of these, I've only tried Dragon Dictation as I'm too stubborn/embarrassed to try other options or get hearing aids.

- Ava - Ava sounds good and it used to be called Trancense. I'll try this one first once I get over my stupid shit - https://www.ava.me

- Dragon dictation is really helpful in meetings.

- Speaksee is raising money right now, but if it works as well as advertised, it would be a dream. I have more trouble hearing on my phone than in person (unless there's lots of background noise) - https://www.speak-see.com

- I'd like to try Texthear, but I'm an iOS user and their pricing model on iOS ($0.30 a minute sold in 30 minute blocks) is fucking insane. The download comes with 30 seconds preloaded, but that's not much to test it on the speakers I have the most trouble with. The Android app is free. https://texthear.com

One thing to note is that for many of these technologies, the quality of your mic is important. Another thing to note is that they're not particularly discrete. If they're like me, they might find that the speech to text problem is easier to solve than the stigma of using one.

hey hluska - Ava's founder here.

Phone calls - try RogerVoice app to have them transcribed for you. It's pretty easy but not free.

Ava - we focus on any in-person discussions, including meetings. The trick with group conversations is the cross-talk, and people speaking fast/casually. We developed over the last 3 years an AI that eliminates these issues to make it work exactly for this situation. Others will need to download the app (Ava), but it's free to join a host, and hosts get 5 hours every month to try the app 100% free.

Regarding the embarrassing situation of having to ask others, I see this a lot - that's really normal. First, know that you can use Ava by itself with your phone, a bit like a "talking stick". It can look like you're checking your phone when you are actually checking what the person actually said if what you heard. Just hold your phone within 1-2 meters from the speaker.

If you have a Bluetooth microphones, those make Ava really awesome: you can find an earpiece or a clip on (we recommend a few here: www.ava.me/store) so you can follow presentations/meetings when one person speak for a long time and is hard to lip read. Airpods or such work too, and of course wired microphones (for lunch for example).

For more situations, I really encourage you to read our FAQ: http://help.ava.me - we list like 95% of daily situations a deaf/hard-of-hearing person finds themselves into and how Ava can help there.

PS: feel free to give us any feedback on this, we're all ears & eyes :)


As a profoundly deaf person, I encourage you to speak to an audiologist and get hearing aids. They make some that are practically invisible, and the newfangled ones have Bluetooth technology, which streams music and phone calls and stuff directly to your ear. It's a total game changer. Most people I speak to don't even know I'm profoundly deaf until I bring it up or until I say/do something embarrassing. :)

As for your suggestions, I like Ava. +1

Just curious, when online, I would expect Google Speech to text models to outperform most of the offline only models. I also believe for text to speech their wavenet models are one of the best available for developers?


If you're looking into developing something, if I were you, I would look at three things.

1.) Form factor - it's amazing how much of this industry relies on either hearing aids or holding a mic/phone in someone's face.

2.) Quality of voice - I'm lucky. I am not "deaf", I just have trouble picking out voices at certain frequencies, or all voices if there's enough noise. Luckily, I don't have to speak with an electronic voice. If I did, I'd want a voice that sounds a little human and has some inflection. This is a tough problem, but if you can solve it, the Kurzweils of the world would be playing catch up.

3.) Targeting - I damaged my hearing when I was young, addicted to very very loud music (especially live) and not particularly bright. I'm in my forties and still not particularly comfortable using assistive technology. If I were a teen, I'd be fucking mortified to use any of these. Fuck, I could have easily failed high school because of that. I can't escape the feeling that there's a market for people like me. I would love an audiologist's office with tattoos and Bad Religion. If that feeling came to an assistive device, I'd be a customer.

Of course, I'm a weirdo and it's not always the best idea to start a company to cater to a weirdo!! :)

Thanks a lot, this list is really helpful!

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact