Editor’s Blog – Seeing is believing . . . and helping . . . and learning
Zoi Meet and Vuzix implement AR for real time translation services. (Picture credit Zoi Meet)
Assistive technology was in evidence at CES 2023, with smart glasses providing text transcription to help the visually and hearing impaired. Caroline Hayes discovers how the same technology could have uses in retail and education environments.
Analyst firm, IDTechEx, identified popular uses of augmented reality (AR) glasses. These include watching films while travelling or for real time translation using the lenses’ waveguides and microLEDs to create a wearable, visual display. Other smart glasses incorporate cameras and speakers in the arms for real time text to speech or speech to text translation which can help those with impaired hearing to see the text of a conversation and for the visually impaired to enjoy an audio description of their surroundings.
IDTechEx identified startups, including Xrai, XanderGlasses, and Seleste Audio, which had developed software that transforms AR glasses into transcription tools using hardware from companies such as Vuzix.
Although smart glasses are currently large, expensive and the performance is adequate for some commercial uses, such as warehouse applications, IDTechEx predicted that “with sufficient utility, early-stage hardware could still generate value, and CES 2023 made it clear that the hearing and visually impaired are set to become early adopters. With the [World Health Organisation] WHO estimating that over three billion people worldwide are living with hearing and visual impairments, the commercial potential of this application is difficult to ignore”.
From warehouse to meeting room
Smart glasses maker, Vuzix, has teamed up with Zoi Meet, creator of the Flow communications platform, to integrate a live, multi-lingual transcription service on its Blade smart glasses, using the Verizon wireless network.
Figure 2: The real time translation service supports 12 languages.
Speech is automatically transcribed into text, while someone speaks. The text is projected directly into the AR glasses headset. The app can also be used on tablets and devices. The Zoi Meet / Vuzix smart glasses target the business community where business software translates for international meetings and also stores downloadable transcriptions.
Initially, the real time language subtitle app is available for 12 languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, simplified Chinese (simplified), Japanese and Korean.
The live multi-lingual transcription service leverages proprietary voice to text and language translation algorithms developed partly by pocket translator technology company, Travis and which have been customised and integrated into the smart glasses.
Meet the metaverse
Zoi Meet’s Flow platform is used to populate the metaverse with event hosts, assistants and guides for social and business interaction. Its AI software transcribes conversations in multiple languages in real time. The company was founded in 2018 in the Netherlands.
“Spoken language is an integral part of communication and bringing real-time live multi-lingual transcription services to smart glasses really levels the communication playing field for everyone,” says Paul Travers, president and CEO at Vuzix. “This application can be utilised by individuals and business travellers alike communicating with others on a daily basis,” he continues.
“Whether you’re travelling or using the Vuzix Blade for business, having hands-free language translation on the display of the Blade is a game changer for face-to-face conversations,” said Nick Yap, Zoi Meet’s co-founder.
The benefits of hand-free translation services will make meetings and business conversations more fluid. Vuzix smart glasses are already used in warehouse operations where they can direct the wearer to particular locations, leaving their hands free to select items or use a keyboard.
Essentially, Zoi Meet turns the Blade’s microphone into a live closed captioning device, says the company, opening up business across borders.
“By enabling the . . . Zoi Meet instant transcription service on Vuzix smart glasses we realize our goal of bringing people closer together and unlocking both personal and business opportunities unavailable to them before,” adds Kevin Oranje, co-founder of Zoi Meet.