Google Unveils New Accessibility Initiatives
Tech giant Google says it is working on multiple projects designed to improve day-to-day life for people with various disabilities.
At its annual developer conference this week, the company revealed several accessibility initiatives.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated how a new Live Caption feature on Android phones will transcribe any audio or video — no matter its origin — in real time and allow users who don’t speak to respond by typing.
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Pichai said the company is looking to expand on that capability even further through a project called Live Relay which is aimed at helping people who are deaf or hard of hearing make phone calls more easily.
Separately, an effort known as Project Euphonia is working to help people with speech impairments by training computers to decipher their words and transcribe them. And through another undertaking called Project Diva, engineers want to allow people who are nonverbal to use Google Assistant, which is typically a voice-activated system.
“Building for everyone also means ensuring that everyone can access our products,” Pichai said at the conference. “We believe technology can help us be more inclusive and (artificial intelligence) is providing us with new tools to dramatically improve the experience for people with disabilities.”
Lorenzo Caggioni, a Google software engineer and the developer behind Project Diva, said he was inspired by his brother with Down syndrome who has congenital cataracts. He loves music and movies but relies on others to press start or stop for him.
“As new voice-driven technologies started to emerge, they also came with a different set of challenges that required him to be able to use his voice or a touchscreen,” Caggioni wrote in a company posting about the new initiative. “That’s when I decided to find a way to let my brother control access to his music and movies on voice-driven devices without any help. It was a way for me to give him some independence and autonomy.”