Hackathons have become increasingly popular ways of exploring new possibilities in the programming and development fields. The phrase itself is a portmanteau of the words hack and marathon, with hack relating to experimenting with computer hardware and software in a fun and enjoyable way, not the more sinister definition relating to cybercrime. Hackathons typically last 2-7 days, with participants working almost non-stop to create something new.
It was at the 36-hour Hacktech Hackathon in January 2014 that Alejandro Rioja, Ritvik Upadhyaya, Christian Guerin and Jordan Vega developed the WatchMeTalk app.
The WatchMeTalk app uses Google’s Speech-to-text API, in conjunction with Google Glass, to convert audio (spoken text) into text, in real time. Although the app has many possible benefits throughout society, the team saw it as having the greatest benefit to the deaf and hard of hearing – when paired with Google Glass, the app allows you to look directly at someone as they speak to you, and immediately have their speech converted to text that you can read without looking away. Other ways the app could be used include:
- When watching a film or TV show that does not have subtitles or closed-captioning.
- At gatherings, meetings and parties, allowing you to more easily participate in discussions, or understand what is being discussed without the need for interpreting.
Although the WatchMeTalk app was initially designed to work with Google Glass, the team are currently developing standalone versions for Android smartphones and iPhones, with a launch projected for September 2014. The app is currently undergoing beta testing, but it already received extensive coverage at the 52nd Biennial National Association of the Deaf Conference earlier this year.
More details can be found on the app’s website.
Google Glass is a form of wearable technology that is at once quite controversial, and of great benefit within certain situations. It is currently only available to developers and US consumers, at $1,500 per pair. Google has given no indication of when Google Glass will be available to international consumers.