Ever since the introduction of IBM’s Shoebox (a voice assistant that could help with simple solutions), voice assistants have become increasingly popular. Individuals, as well as brands from various industries have been quick to leverage the benefits of voice assistants.
Today, it is clear that technology has been an integral part of our lives. We often look to technology to handle some of our most basic needs. This is incredible, however, there are certain people that are left out of the thrill. For example, the question remains of whether technology can be adapted to be useful to the deaf.
For some time, the blind and the deaf couldn’t really enjoy the advantages of voice assistants. However, change is occuring gradually and there is now a sense of inclusion. Tech companies have created solutions for the deaf, as well as the blind. With the growing need for these kinds of solutions, Alexa has been able, to an extent, to tend to the needs of the deaf.
The fact that audio is the only means of communication for voice assistants makes it nearly impossible to have voice assistants that work for deaf people. However, with recent innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning, this is poised to change.
Smart assistants tend to be more valuable to people with disabilities. The capability of the voice assistant makes it possible to make up for the abilities that the user may not have. If you ever assumed that it is impossible to have an Alexa user who’s deaf then this article will help you to rethink that.
Amazon is one brand that is known to develop its solutions based on customer needs. Its customer-centric approach is evident in its concern for impaired users.
We will take a look at how deaf people can enjoy the benefits of Alexa. Alexa is a great option for the deaf because she makes adjustments for their inability to hear or make sounds. By incorporating Alexa into devices with a screen, Amazon has created Echo devices that the deaf can use.
In order to properly understand why Alexa can be useful to deaf people, you need to understand how that is made possible. Alexa’s ability to interact with deaf people is a function of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is probably the most significant aspect of technology today.
With artificial intelligence, scientists and enthusiasts have been able to gain significant insights. These insights often lead to the discovery of efficient solutions that bring ease to those who need it the most. The world of voice assistants has experienced amazing leaps as a result of innovations from AI.
Using creatively designed methods, machines can be ‘taught’ the process of learning. Machine learning is the process of teaching machines to act and react autonomously. This allows machines to learn processes and understand how to react to these processes with little to no human interaction.
Machine learning makes it possible for machines to interact with disabled people. As we’ve discussed before A.I. is behind making Alexa accessible to blind people. Now let’s dive into some solutions with which allow the deaf (or hearing impaired) to take advantage of Alexa.
TAP TO ALEXA
There are times when Alexa users are unable to properly process what is being said as a result of a hearing impairment. The “Tap To Alexa” feature makes it possible for deaf people to effectively make use of commands, skills, and, routines.
Typically, Alexa comes up when she is called upon. However, it is possible to have access to Alexa by simply tapping on the device’s touchscreen.
With ‘Tap To Alexa’, users can gain access to shortcuts and other salient features that Alexa offers. This is a great option for people who cannot speak or listen effectively to Alexa’s commands or responses because it allows users to communicate to Alexa by typing out commands.
Does it work for Alexa routines?
Yes! With ‘Tap To Alexa’, users can add shortcut buttons that will trigger Alexa routines. An Alexa routine is a collection of actions that are triggered by certain commands.
For instance, by saying “good morning, Alexa”, you could trigger multiple actions such as;
- Turning on the lights
- Turning on the water heater
- Playing the weather and/or traffic report, and many more.
Deaf people are not left out of this amazing experience as they can also create routines with shortcut buttons. These shortcuts buttons can be edited based on individual preferences.
Alexa is not just all about the voice; Amazon strives to give a voice to the voiceless (literally). For those that lack the ability to speak or hear audio, Alexa can be operated with the keyboard icon.
This feature is currently only available on the Amazon Echo Show. However it’s such an important feature that we are confident that Amazon will incorporate it into other devices (our first guess is the Echo Spot).
To set up “Tap To Alexa”, you simply need to go to your device settings and click on ‘Accessibility settings’ to simply turn on the feature.
The “Tap To Alexa” feature is pretty amazing and it is efficient. However, let’s take a look at another innovation that makes it convenient for people with hearing impairments to use Alexa.
This section’s title sounds like a topic in advanced physics or something but it actually refers to a solution that was developed by Abhishek Singh, who gained significant popularity when he built the classic ‘Super Mario Bros’ in augmented reality.
Singh’s solution is simply a web application that he created for the deaf. This application effectively utilizes the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning. The process involves the use of a camera that reads sign language and subsequently transcribes it into spoken language for an Amazon Echo device.
His solution makes it possible for deaf people to interact with Alexa using sign language. The system has been developed to learn and interpret sign language. After the information has been processed by Alexa, then her reply is transcribed into words that can be read. This is a huge leap in the right direction towards an all-inclusive voice assistant.
In a bid to build a proper system, Singh made use of a popular machine learning platform called tensorflow. This way, he was able to adequately teach sign language to the machine. It is also significant to mention that Singh also made use of Google’s text-to-speech capabilities. This was used in the process of transcribing the message to speech and back to written format.
Both Singh’s solution and the smart Echo touch screens are great options for people with hearing or speaking impairments.
Why is Alexa good for the deaf?
Voice assistants have always been assumed to be totally exclusive to people with normal speech and hearing. However, recently Alexa has become a viable tool that can be used by the deaf. With the right Alexa devices, deaf people can enjoy everyday activities with less hassle. With these sorts of solution, a deaf person can really build out their a smart home.
Can deaf people make use of Alexa skills?
What is an Alexa device without the range of skills that Amazon provides? Skills make the use of Alexa devices more fun.
Since the Alexa skill store has tens of thousands of skills and counting, the deaf people are not to be left out..
According to Aine Jackson, a member of the British Deaf Association, developments in voice-assisted technologies are leaving deaf sign language users behind. However, with the solutions we’ve discussed in this article, deaf people can adequately communicate and get things done with the help of Alexa.
Jackson recognizes the importance of solutions that are similar to Abhishek Singh’s solution.
Alexa captioning has always been available in the US for Echo Show users, as well as, the Echo Spot. Amazon is working on expanding this capability to users in Japan, India, France, and Australia, to name a few.
If you want to listen to the news, get a pizza or find a ride, brands such as CNN, Domino’s, Uber, Food Network, and many more have all created skills for impaired users.
With thousands of skills and counting, there is a lot to look forward to in the Echo Show for deaf users.
Which Amazon Echo is good for the deaf & why?
Our #1 Rated
4.7 out of 5
As we said earlier, not all Amazon Echo products currently have capabilities for the deaf. The Amazon Echo Show is the best device for folks with hearing impairments. Below we will take a look at the Echo Show’s capabilities and limits.
Its interface is relatively easy to use and has a top-notch display. It is one of the first Alexa-enabled devices with a screen, but it is likely not going to be the last. With constant innovations and understanding about how these machines work, Amazon can only get better.
The device is a beauty to behold. We say this to stress that the device isn’t just a solution for the deaf. It presents all the entertainment that Alexa offers and places it on a 10.1 inch HD (1,280 x 800) touchscreen display. It is a device that efficiently serves the purpose of inclusion for the deaf people.
The quality of the camera is critical when it comes to the device’s ability to interpret sign language. With a 5 megapixel camera for HD video communication, the Echo Show can be properly set up to capture and interpret information via sign language.
Simplicity is the secret to the usability of the Echo Show device. It is a great way to visualize Alexa commands and get things done without uttering a word.
Alexa helps disabilities become less limiting by the day. The Echo Show is the device in the Echo line made to address the needs of deaf people. Alexa is a great option for the deaf and it removes the limits of voiceless communication that deaf people may otherwise face.
It will be interesting to watch Amazon’s next steps in this regard. Our guess is that there will be many upgrades to the “Tap to Alexa” feature.
There are several practical reasons why Alexa is a great option for the deaf. Daily interactions are crucial and with Alexa, deaf people can actively communicate their thoughts and get answers to questions.