Google made an app to ease communication for people with speech impairments


For too long, people with speech impairments have struggled to be understood not only by other people, but also by voice-based technology. Though some companies have started to make their products work better for people with atypical speech, the most prevalent services still don’t hear them well. Google announced today that it’s made a new Android app called Project Relate that could help people with speech impairments communicate more easily with others and the Assistant. It’s looking for beta testers to test and improve the app starting today.

Like product manager for Google Research Julie Cattiau said in a video, “standard speech recognition doesn’t always work as well for people with atypical speech because the algorithms have not been trained on samples of their speech.” Project Relate would use custom models trained on each individual user’s speech patterns. When someone first launches the app, it’ll ask them to repeat a few phrases to create a base model and understand the way they speak.

Then, Project Relate can do three things: Transcribe the user’s speech into text that they can copy and paste or show to people on their screen, read out what the user said in a synthesized voice and communicated with the Google Assistant.

The app is still being tested, with the company saying it will get back applicants for beta testing positions “in the coming months.” But this is an important first step towards improving speech recognition for those with atypical speech.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.