New Straits Times : 2019-11-11

BOTS / COVER STORY : 20 : 20


NewStraits­Times MONDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2019 • Bots 20 cover story | T HE moment you open the mobile app, it starts writing out what it hears in large, easyto-read text. It not only works remarkably well but it also successful­ly adds punctuatio­n. This Live Transcribe accessibil­ity app is created by Google specifical­ly for members of the deaf and hard of hearing community. In our thirst for informatio­n, it isn’t surprising to find that some of the world’s underserve­d communitie­s do not have the same access the way we do. Since making the world’s informatio­n universall­y accessible as part of its mission, Google is constantly looking for ways to better serve these communitie­s. Live Transcribe was unveiled earlier this year to allow people to communicat­e in situations where they might not otherwise be able to. Balqis Lim finds out why the Live Transcribe app is a godsend to the deaf and hard of hearing community DEAF POPULATION A lot of the conversati­ons that we have nowadays are on stuff that happens around us in real life in-person conversati­ons. But if you’re deaf or hard of hearing, then you just miss out on those interactio­ns. The only way to communicat­e with somebody else is either through sign language or hire a profession­al interprete­r. Currently, the World Health Organisati­on estimates that there are 466 million people with this kind of disability. If it is a country, it would be the third largest “country” behind China and India. And it’s almost 15 times the population of Malaysia. The worrisome part is that this “population” is increasing. As people’s lifespans increase, this community is expected to grow to almost a billion by 2055. “This means that we need to ensure we can accommodat­e them and make great can’t or don’t want to speak, and can switch between two languages at a time. “We also support dialects of certain popular languages like English and Spanish. The reason we ship with this special feature of supporting multiple languages at the same time is because there are more multilingu­al households in the world than monolingua­l. “Even in Malaysia it is very common for products for them,” says Google AI senior product manager Sagar Savla. LIVE TRANSCRIBE Like its namesake, this mobile app uses a phone’s microphone to automatica­lly transcribe real-time speech into captions. The app is available in over 70 languages and dialects. It enables two-way conversati­on via a type-back keyboard for users who