Google’s new Project Relate app aims to help people with speech impairments communicate

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The company is looking for people to test the app and provide feedback.

Google is developing and testing an app designed to help people with speech impairments more easily communicate with others. Project Relate, an app for Android, is now inviting an “initial group of people” to test the product, the company said in a blog post Tuesday. The app is also designed to help facilitate interactions with the Google Assistant.

“[We] realized that our speech recognition technology could be improved to help people with speech impairments be better understood,” Julie Cattiau, product manager in Google Research, said during an Inventors @ Google virtual event Tuesday. “Standard speech recognition doesn’t always work as well for people with atypical speech because the algorithms have not been trained on samples of their speech.”

So Google decided to make an app that would be “custom-trained on individuals’ unique speech patterns,” Cattiau said. To start, users record a set of phrases so the app can get to know how they talk. Then, Google uses speech data to personalize the technology and help users carry out commands.

The Relate app includes three key features. Listen transcribes what someone is saying in real time, allowing them to send what they’ve said as a text, copy and paste it into other apps or let people read what they’re saying. Repeat restates what someone says in a clear computerized voice, hopefully making face-to-face interactions more seamless. Lastly, Assistant connects with the Google Assistant to carry out commands such as “Take a selfie,” “Turn off the lights” or “Play music.”

Google is looking for English-speaking testers in the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand to try the app and give feedback. Early testers of Project Relate will be asked to record some phrases, which the app will then use to better understand their unique speech patterns. Then, they’ll be given access to the Listen, Repeat and Assistant features. Anyone interested in testing the Project Relate app can fill out a form at g.co/ProjectRelate. The team will respond “in the coming months,” Google says.

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