How Wearable Devices Can Help You Lecture

Wearable devices can help public speaking by launching prompts in real time as the talk unfolds.

Technology is created to solve problems. Speaking in public is public speaking for many people and, although they were not originally invented for this, wearable devices can help out with it. A team of researchers from the University of Rochester (in New York), belonging to the Human-Computer Interaction Group, have devised a system to give instructions to the speaker of a conference through smart glasses, in real time and after analyzing the user’s speech.

The system is called Rhema and is installed in a smart glasses –The researchers have carried out tests with Google Glass– in order to improve the user’s speech. The software is capable of determine voice volume and speed with which the wearer of the glasses speaks.

Audio is recorded with the device’s microphone and sent to a server automatically. There, the two parameters mentioned above are analyzed, how they could be optimized, and the information is returned to the user presented in a simple way. The researchers concluded that sending a complex set of instructions would only worsen the speaker’s speech.

That is why one of the keys to the technology had to be that the indications were simple. To do this, the researchers thought of two ways to present the information. One of them consists of two bars, one vertical, which measures volume, and another horizontal, which measures velocity. When one of the modules of the bar changes from green to red, the user knows that he has to correct something and how he has to do it.

The other system is even simpler. Rhema indicates with a single word whether to increase the speed of the speech or the volume. Concrete instructions like “Faster” or “Louder” appear on the glasses screen. These are small distractions so that the continuity of the speech is not affected by them.

Multiple possibilities

Scientists believe that Rhema or a similar system could work in other contexts as well. Ultimately, technology tries to give a user instructions on how to behave when talking to other people. Maybe these instructions could be useful to people with social difficulties, such as those who have Asperger syndrome.

Also the system could be employed in customer service, to improve the treatment. It goes without saying that the software and analysis tools would have to be adapted to look at other parameters, apart from the tone of voice or the speed of the user. The prompts could even be based on the customer’s response. If tension is detected in their reactions, the user could be asked to try to calm the situation.

Images: Ludovic Toinel and University of Rochester