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XRAI Glass aims to subtitle life for deaf and hard of hearing users

XRAI Glass aims to subtitle life for deaf and hard of hearing users

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say it again

A lot depends on the person and their medical history, but even with cochlear implants or hearing aids, deciphering speech takes concentration. Some sounds and words are so similar that it is extremely difficult to tell them apart. It is impossible for people who rely on lip reading to understand every word. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 40 percent of the sounds in English can be seen on a speaker’s lips, and that’s under ideal conditions.

The prospect of having audible speech transcribed in your field of vision is exciting. It can help people with varying degrees of hearing loss who may be socially isolated as a result follow a conversation better. The XRAI app also works on TV, which can be handy for live content where subtitles aren’t always good (or in the cinema where subtitles are lacking).

Photo: XRAI

But there are some important caveats here. The XRAI app runs on an Android smartphone that needs to be connected via USB-C to Nreal Air augmented reality glasses, which cost $379. Yes, you will have a wire running down your body from your head to your pocket. Aside from the cost, wearing glasses can be uncomfortable if you have cochlear implants or hearing aids. Despite being relatively light for augmented reality goggles, the Nreal Air is still clunky and heavy compared to regular goggles. I can’t imagine wearing them all day.

Another red flag? One of the main reasons someone with hearing loss might want captions like this is in noisy environments like coffee shops or group conversations where there’s a lot of crosstalk, but Feldman insists we go somewhere quiet for the demo and acknowledges that XRAI Glass does not. Doesn’t work well with background noise or when multiple people are speaking.

Then there’s the cost, and I’m not talking about Nreal’s glasses. The XRAI Glass Essentials tier is free and offers unlimited transcription and one-day conversation history. However, if you want 10 hours of speaker mapping, 30 days of conversation history, and the ability to pin the captions and customize the UI, you’ll need the premium tier, which is free for a month, then jumps to $20 a month. For unlimited speaker assignment, unlimited conversation history, and a “personal AI assistant,” you’ll have to shell out $50 a month for the Ultimate tier. That’s a lot of money.

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The idea of ​​real life subtitles has been around for a while. Google released research on wearable captions a few years ago and teased the possibilities of real-time translation in augmented reality glasses at its latest I/O developer event. A corporate video shows AR glasses that translate languages ​​in real time and subtitle speech for the deaf. Google tells me it’s not ready for prime time, and it’s having trouble making the experience comfortable for people reading text projected into their field of view.

Based on my brief demo, XRAI Glass does not solve these problems. Having to wear bulky, expensive glasses and have subtitles floating in the center of your field of vision isn’t ideal. (You need a paid subscription to pin subtitles in 3D space, but I didn’t see that.)

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