Subtitles for deaf and hearing-impaired students, in university offices

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Samba is a hardware and software device providing a real-time speech-to-text solution to improve the quality of services to deaf and hearing-impaired persons. Developed by Grenoble-Alpes University and CEA-Leti in the frame of Nanoelec/Pulse program, with a grant from the UGA IDEX, Samba was recently improved based on feedback from field-testing with end users: with its two 10-inch back to back displays, the tabletop system is more compact. It now “speaks” five languages and offers new functionalities, like verbatim mailing, to address a wider audience.

The new Samba compact solution for deaf and hearing-impaired persons © CEA

At the Grenoble-Alpes University welcome desk office for disabled students, a hardware and software solution help staff better serve deaf and hearing-impaired persons. Grenoble-Alpes University and CEA-Leti jointly developed, in the frame of Nanoelec/Pulse program with a grand from UGA Idex, a real-time speech-to-text solution enabling the students to interact during desk services with the feeling he or she has just to read subtitles.

The beta version of the solution consisted of a modular unit that housed two displays and a computer. After two rounds of field-testing at the university’s center for services for students with disabilities, several improvements were made with the support of laboratory AGEIS.

Specifically, feedback from end users (hosts and disabled students) indicated that the system would better meet their needs if it was smaller. In research conducted under the Nanoelec/Pulse program, the joint AGEIS (Grenoble-Alpes University) and Y.Spot (CEA Tech) teams used an iterative and incremental development approach to come up with a direction-adjustable unit that houses two 10-inch horizontal displays mounted back to back instead of the 15-inch vertical displays used in the first prototype. When placed between the student and the university staff member, the new, more compact desktop version does not prevent the student from going back and forth between the text on the screen and the speaker’s face. It is almost like reading subtitles.

A design-to-cost approach has been used to reduce the number of components and simplify the assembly process for future commercialization. In addition to making the final product more affordable, this should also facilitate assembling by disabled workers, another on of the project’s goals as part of an inclusive approach. The new prototype has a strong visual identity, with an easy-to-identify logo and original surface texturing. The software and interface were also improved based on feedback from the first round of user testing. It now “speaks” five languages and the conversation can be shared by email. Ultimately, real-time machine translation will be added to the system, potentially broadening Samba’s target market.