• Gregan McMahon

Find Your Voice - Smart Home Solutions for People with Voice Impairments

As many of you already know Silverback Digital creates smart home solutions for people with disabilities, to enable them to live more independent and empowered lives.


Our starting point for these solutions are often with smart home assistants like Google Home or Amazon Alexa. These are have really come into their own over the past 6 months or so and are making heir way into lots of homes and can change lives for many people with disabilities.


We've set these up to control lights, air con, fans, blinds & curtains - you name it.


But they are VOICE Assistants

However there is one significant limitation to these platforms. They are Voice Assistants.


This is great for people who are able to speak clearly enough for the smart home assistant to understand their commands and act on them. Not so great for people whose voices might be limited due to any number of conditions, from MS to Cerebral Palsy to Acquired Brain Injury to Deafness.


Are the Apps the Answer?

In some cases we've been able to use the Amazon Alexa and Google Home apps for people whose speech is limited. This allows them to tap on icons on a smart phone or tablet screen to control their environments.


The problem is, these interfaces can be fiddly. The icons are small and often multiple tap sequences are required.


So not great for many people whose disabilities mean impaired voice AND fine motor skills.

This was a challenge we faced recently working with a wonderful client with Cerebral Palsy.


How do we give her control over her environment when neither speech not the native Google or Amazon Apps would work for her.


A New Control Interface

So the challenge for the team at Silverback Digital was to come up with a new type of touchscreen interface that allows people with impaired voices AND fine motor skills limitations to control their environments - using off the shelf smart home tech.

The Home Control Centre is deigned to have large "tiles" with icons representing the devices the user wishes to control. It is intended that a few of these be mounted around the home - eg in the living dining area, on a bed rail - or on a powered chair if need be.


The user can see at a glance which appliances are on and which are off and a quick tap can change the status instantly.

Now the Giants Are Involved

There's been a recent announcement that Google has called for beta testers for a new solution they are developing to enable Google Home to recognise a wider variety of voice and speech type - especially focussing on people with impaired voices due to a disability.


Know as Project Relate, more details can be found here https://blog.google/outreach-initiatives/accessibility/project-relate/


If anyone is interested in discussing in more detail or chatting about how project relate might help you or someone you know - please feel free to get in touch at gregan@silverbackdc.com.


Thanks for listening!


Gregan

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