Slurred speech making it difficult to communicate with the rest of the world? There’s an app for that. Calum Pringle, an interactive-media student at the University of Dundee in Scotland, has created a high-tech scarf to help people afflicted with dysarthria, a motor speech disorder that results from a neurological injury. “Subtle Subtitles,” made from 100 percent wool, features a pocket-cum-window for nesting a smartphone. With the software installed, the phone is able to pick up the wearer’s speech and “re-communicate” it with flashing subtitles.
The clever cowl is certainly warm and attractive on its own, but it becomes a quality-of-life aid with the addition of an iPhone or iPod, a mic, and a voice-recognition app that highlights specific words for listeners nearby.
The voice-recognition act highlights specific words from the wearer’s speech with the occasional subtitle.
Pringle’s own mother, who was diagnosed with spinocerebellar ataxia seven years ago, inspired his project. “Her voice is now affected by speech dysarthria, symptomatic of her ataxia,” he says. “Although friends and family still understand her for the most part, people who are less familiar are having some difficulty. This provided my project focus.”
Compared with current technologies that replace a person’s voice with synthesized speech, Subtle Subtitles isn’t very sophisticated. But that’s completely intentional. Designed to augment, not replace, the wearer’s own speech, the scarf provides context to the conversation while “preserving the intimacy of the exchange,” according to Pringle. “Instead of replacing a facility lost by the user, my system enhances the user’s remaining speech,” he adds.
[Via Fashioning Tech]