Communication Aids21st July 2014

How about subtitles on your watch?

Will subtitles on a smart watch be the next big thing for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people?

by Karl Jenkins

A couple of months ago SL First had a very popular article about using your mobile phone to provide ‘subtitles’ (speech-to-text) for real life conversations. Now one company is trying to take that a step further and have those captions appear on a ‘SmartWatch’.

The company is called Digital Army Devices and consists of a team of four American men; Alex Movitz, Mica Born, Jobril Jaha and Mike Boyd. Back at the start of this year they tried to secure funding through Kickstarter for a device they invented called ISeeWhatYouSay (pictured below); a small hand-held device with a screen that pairs with your mobile phone and was able to display subtitles for words spoken into the device or mobile phone. Unfortunately, they didn’t meet their funding target and so that device never got off the ground.


That didn’t stop the team however and now they’re back with a slightly different take on their device, instead of trying to manufacture their own hardware; they’re going to use something that many people already have – a SmartWatch. It allows remote speech-to-text and is specifically aimed at Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. An example where this device could be very useful is if you went to a help desk at a bus or train station and needed to understand what someone was saying to you; you could pass them your mobile phone, they speak into it and whatever they said appears as text on your watch. They think their device is best suited to people who have become deaf later in life; so they are still able to speak but unable to hear any responses. However, this could certainly work for BSL users in emergencies too. You are able to start the device 'listening' from either the mobile or the watch and when a new message is received on the watch it vibrates gently to let the owner know that something new has been said.

Pebble Watch displaying captions

They claim their software will work on a number of different SmartWatches – the Pebble, the Samsung Gear Live, the Moto 360 and the LG G Watch. Also noted by Mr Jaha was that some of these watches (the Samsung and the LG) have built in microphones and they hope in future versions of the software you won't even need to get your phone out from your pocket, just have someone speak directly to your watch and the captions promptly appear on the same screen.

Pebble SmartWatch

When asked about whether their software might ever come to Apple devices, they said “If they let us” – they have tried to get their software on iPod Nanos in the past, but Apple wanted $10,000 developer fees which they were unable to pay. They have stated now however that while the current app is Android only, they are working on an iPhone version too.

The app is available now on the Google Play Store, so if you own an Android Wear compatible SmartWatch  you can download the app here for £2.93. If you’d like to find out more about Digital Army Devices then you can follow them on Twitter @icwhatyousay or check out their website

Article by Karl Jenkins

posted in Technology / Communication Aids

21st July 2014