Startup XRAI Glass has launched software that turns audio into text on augmented reality (AR) glasses, with the prime use case to improve conversation quality for deaf people.
The programme, which runs on Nreal glasses, lets people “see” the conversation they’re having in real-time through closed captions via a screen in the glasses.
Speaking to XR Today, Founder and CEO Dan Scarfe said the idea was sparked from a willingness to help his Grandfather, who, at 97 years old, is struggling to hear.
Explaining further he stated,
“My Grandad still has full cognitive capacity but doesn’t have much hearing. I don’t see him as much because I live in Canada, but I came home at Christmas, and he was surrounded by family, but it was like he was alone because he couldn’t hear anything. It broke my heart. I don’t know when I had the lightbulb moment, but he watches captions on the TV so why can’t he watch captions in real life? That’s when my quest began”
Scarfe said that XRAI Glass has taken a decentralised approach to how the software runs, meaning that all processing is done on the smartphone, not in a cloud server. This is particularly important from a privacy perspective, he said, given that the software may be used to facilitate sensitive conversations.
New capabilities are set to be added soon, including the ability to translate languages. Users can also choose whether their device keeps a conversation record or erases it.
XRAI Glass’ software is currently free while in its public preview phase, with a price set to be confirmed at a later date based on customer feedback. Prospective users can register here.
The initial focus for XRAI Glass is on the consumer space, but Scarfe said there are clear applications for the product in the workplace – particularly with meeting equity in the hybrid world top of mind for many businesses.
“It makes so much sense in a hybrid meeting, or if you’re in a room with good mics you can connect the phone with any Bluetooth audio source,” Scarfe said.
He added that people had also discussed educational use cases with his company, where people could “capture all the notes and transcribe them” in real time while attending lectures.
Mark Atkinson, CEO at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, said in a press release,
“This is a great example of the positive difference innovative technology can make for people who are deaf or have hearing loss. At RNID we are excited about the potential for technology to transform the lives of our communities”
Atkinson added that the device was “intuitive and simple to use” as a powerful tool to ensure users with hearing loss did not “feel excluded in social settings.”
He concluded: “We support and applaud this endeavour and are keen to play our part in connecting innovators with our diverse communities.”
Steve Crump, Founder and Chair of DeafKidz International, added,
“As a profoundly deaf person myself, I was blown away by this technology. When I tried on the glasses, I was astonished – real time subtitles that enable you to engage and participate as never before. I see XRAI Glass as a hugely positive force, and I can’t wait to work with the team to help bring this to life”
XRAI Glass has partnered with glasses manufacturer Nreal and EE for the launch. EE customers can buy the headset for £10 upfront, then £35 per month for 11 months, while non-EE customers can pay £399.99 upfront. Nreal glasses are powered mainly by software running on a connected smartphone, with a range of Android-powered phones being compatible.