Alexa can now have a conversation with members of the deaf community

amazon echo in the dark
Greg Mombert/Digital Trends

As convenient as voice assistants have proven themselves to be, these A.I.-powered tools have lagged in their inability to serve the deaf community. But one enterprising computer scientist has developed a solution that will allow those with hearing impediments to experience the highs and lows of Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri along with everyone else. Abhishek Singh, who first rose to prominence when he built Super Mario Bros in augmented reality, has created a web application that uses a camera to read sign language, and then translates those words into spoken language for an Amazon Echo. When the Echo speaks its response, the whole process plays out in reverse, resulting in a typed reply for hearing impaired or deaf people to read.

This app goes beyond the pseudo-solution provided by the Amazon Echo Show, which added a screen to the smart home hub in order to allow members of the deaf community to interact with the smart home assistant. However, this still did not allow Alexa and its user to truly have a conversation – Singh’s offering, however, fixes this.

“The project was a thought experiment inspired by observing a trend among companies of pushing voice-based assistants as a way to create instant, seamless interactions,” he told Fast Company. “If these devices are to become a central way we interact with our homes or perform tasks, then some thought needs to be given to those who cannot hear or speak. Seamless design needs to be inclusive in nature.”

In building the system, Singh trained an A.I. system within machine learning platform Tensorflow, signing words through his webcam ad nauseam in order to “teach” the system sign language. He then added Google’s text-to-speech capabilities in order to translate the sign language into spoken words.

While Singh’s solution is an elegant one, the coder still hopes that Amazon will ultimately recognize sign language on its own. “That’s where I hope this heads. And if this project leads to a push in that direction in any small way, then mission accomplished,” he said. “In an ideal world, I would have built this on the Show directly, but the devices aren’t that hackable yet, [I] wasn’t able to find a way to do it.”

Smart Home

Project Alias is a ‘smart parasite’ that stops smart speakers from listening

Two designers chose to do something about nosy smart speakers. The result is Project Alias, a "smart parasite" that whispers nonsense to Google Home and Alexa until it hears a specific wake word.
Smart Home

This just in: Alexa can now deliver the news like a professional newscaster

The Amazon Alexa team has given Alexa a newscaster voice that improves the way she delivers the news and reads Wikipedia articles, making the smart assistant easier to understand.
Home Theater

Polk Audio’s Command Bar joins Alexa’s multiroom music party

Polk's Command Bar is a home theater soundbar with Alexa built in. But with a new update, it can also be grouped with Amazon's Echo products and other third-party speakers for a multi-room experience.
Cars

Infiniti previews its leap into one of the hottest industry segments

Infiniti will unveil the QX Inspiration concept at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The design study is an electric crossover shaped by Infiniti's newest design language that may point to a future production model.
Smart Home

Ring security camera catches man licking the doorbell for hours

A family in Salinas, California had their Ring camera capture something pretty unexpected: a man licking the doorbell outside of their home for more than three hours. The incident took place around 5:00 a.m.
Smart Home

GHSP makes a (back)splash with its touchscreen concept kitchen

One of the coolest concept kitchens from CES 2019 came from GHSP. It created a backsplash entirely made of touchscreens. That means the control panel for your kitchen is accessible no matter where you are.
Health & Fitness

In search of the fountain of youth, beauty companies turn to tech

Beauty tech is a fairly new concept, but at CES 2019, companies such as Olay, L’Oreal, and Neutrogena were fully embracing it with all kinds of gadgets that promise to give you glowing skin.
Product Review

Kwikset Kevo Contemporary review

Tired of carrying around keys? Make keyless entry so easy that all you have to do is have your phone nearby to open the door. It’s a little pricey, but sleek lines and simple features make the Kwikset Kevo Contemporary a great choice for…
Smart Home

Airbnb says sorry to guest for how it dealt with undisclosed security camera

An Airbnb guest recently found a surveillance camera in his rental apartment that hadn't been properly disclosed in the listing. The firm admits its initial response to the guest's complaint was poor, but has since made amends.
Smart Home

Thinking of buying an Instant Pot? Here's what you need to know

The Instant Pot is a powerful kitchen appliance that does everything from pressure cook to to slow cook to steam. Heck, you can even make yogurt in it. Here's all you need to know about the magic device.
Smart Home

Want a smarter home? Ditch the keys with these great smart locks

A good smart lock should offer a combination of security and convenience. Fortunately, these devices keep your home protected, your family safe, and your belongings secure from possible intruders.
Smart Home

The best sous vide machines cook your food perfectly, every single time

Want to make four-star meals from the comforts of your own kitchen? Here are the best sous vide machines available right now, whether you prefer simple immersion circulators or something more complex.
Smart Home

Busted: Facebook Portal gets 5-star reviews from company employees

It's fair to say that Facebook's Portal smart display received a tepid response at launch, so it was something of a surprise to see lots of glowing reviews of the device on Amazon. Turns out some were written by Facebook workers.
Smart Home

Idaho mother says her child’s light-up sippy cup exploded

After a mother filled a Nuby insulated light-up cup with milk, the cup allegedly exploded. The incident caused burns to the mother's hand and face and a stinging sensation in her lungs that required a trip to the hospital.