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Google Glass: Eyes and ears for sight and hearing impaired

Thursday, 8 May 2014 | By Kye White

Imagine a device that provides subtitled conversations for the hearing impaired in real life.


Thanks to Google Glass, Telstra and Australian app developer b2cloud, such a device is a reality.


For the past six months, Telstra and b2cloud have been working to create apps on Google Glass for the vision and hearing impaired.


One app uses Google Glass’ microphone and heads-up display to transcribe speech for the hearing impaired, presenting real-time subtitles of a conversation.


It will enable users to be more active participants in conversations or meetings with multiple people in a room, rather than having to rely on a laptop or computer.


Another enables those who are vision impaired to receive audio descriptions of objects in front of them.


B2cloud managing director Josh Guest gives the example of a vision impaired person holding two cans of the same size, one of spaghetti, the other of baked beans, the only way to tell the difference is the label, and Google Glass is able relay that information back to the user by giving them an audio description.


For the vision impaired, it’s a feature that can make common tasks like shopping at the supermarket, an awful lot easier.


“It all works, these are real apps, they’ve been trialled amongst users, people who are hearing and vision impaired,” Guest says.


“The point is not to look at it like a product, but what it is an experiment, and it just shows what the potential is, in a brilliant connected future, what does that actually look like.”


Guest says when the device was tested by a group of Telstra employees with vision and hearing impairment and their reactions were “jaw dropping”.


“It’s super rewarding,’’ he says.


“If it’s just about building stuff, then it gets forgotten, but if you are able to markedly change someone’s life, it’s remembered, it changes society.”


B2cloud is one of a select group of developers given access to Google Glass and is projecting revenue from wearables to grow from 10 per cent to 30 per cent of its business within 12 months.


“One of the points for us is we’re a mobile developer and we’ve started to realise mobile isn’t all about the phone,’’ he says.


“It’s your watch, it’s your fitness band, mobile is changing and as a business we’re changing.


“To think it took five years from when app started to get to this point.


“Wearables are only going to take a year. It’s really important for businesses to understand now what they’re customers are going to be using in six months or 12 months’ time.’’