The Writing’s on the Glass: Instant Captions for Daily Interactions

What if captioning wasn't limited to multimedia and entertainment mediums and could transcend, by way of tech devices, into day-to-day interactions with others? It’s what app developers at Georgia Tech are trying to accomplish—real-time captions of real-life conversations. The question is, does it really work?

Some are calling it “instant captions” - a concept rarely synonymous with accuracy (except when real-time captioners are involved). All you need is a smart phone and Google Glass (the Explorer model goes for a measly $1,500). One need only speak into a smartphone microphone, and the app turns spoken dialogue into a transcript. That transcript is converted into captions displayed on the user’s glassware. There’s a slight delay, but the auditory features of Glass appear accurate and (arguably) promising.

One problem is convenience. Will the deaf and hard of hearing community mind wearing the device whenever he or she is out and about? More concerning is the dependence on a smartphone; users will need to hold their phones up to others in order to generate captions, which poses a challenge in social settings (really though, it’s no different from journalists wielding audio recorders for an interview).

Consensus: For now it looks like it’s best suited for interactions with friends and family, at least until the smartphone is no longer required for setup. Perhaps the smartphone will not be needed for this when the microphone on Google Glass is improved.

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