Live Transcribe for iOS Launches on Global Accessibility Awareness Day
Q & A with Rob Norback, creator of Live Transcribe for iOS
Why build Live Transcribe for iOS?
Two years ago, I built a speech-to-text app called Hearing Helper to communicate with my 99-year-old grandfather. He used hearing aids but still struggled with his hearing.
I decided to build a simple app that would translate speech to text. It allowed us to communicate again.
After posting Hearing Helper for free, I got this message from a user: “I use this app to communicate with my mother. It’s the most important thing in the world to me. Can I pay you to make sure it stays up-to-date?” His fervor compelled me to maintain and expand on Hearing Helper.
I started talking to the Deaf and hard of hearing online communities about speech-to-text apps. While Google’s Live Transcribe was a terrific speech-to-text service on Android platforms, the equivalent did not exist on iOS platforms.
So we built Live Transcribe for iOS, a fully-featured speech-to-text app. We want Live Transcribe for iOS to be the de facto speech-to-text solution for the Deaf and hard of hearing communities.
Are you Deaf or hard of hearing (HoH) or do you have connections with these communities?
I am not Deaf or HoH, though I do have it in my genetics to be HoH later in life. I’ve been able to build a strong connection to those communities because of Hearing Helper users.
As we made Live Transcribe for iOS, it was humbling to build something that I thought was really slick only to have these Hearing Helper users and Live Transcribe for iOS beta-testers say “We hate it.” And I was like “OK, back to the drawing board then!”
One of the beta-testers is a fantastic UX/UI designer who directly contributed design feedback to a feature I was doubtful about. Of course, the whole beta-testing group loved this feature, and it’s now an important part of Live Transcribe for iOS.
We’ve also benefited from the expertise of a wonderful advisor who is a deaf audiologist. It’s been a breath of fresh air to have her input in our discussions.
Working and interacting with the Deaf and HoH members of the Hearing Helper community has been a joy, and we welcome community members to tell about their experiences with Live Transcribe for iOS.
How is Live Transcribe for iOS different from Hearing Helper?
The two apps serve complementary purposes.
Hearing Helper is a minimal app built for people who might be sick of writing on notepads or don’t know American Sign Language (ASL) but want to communicate with their Deaf or HoH family members, friends, or patients.
Live Transcribe for iOS is built FOR the Deaf or HoH person to use. It gives the user control over their environment. With Live Transcribe for iOS, users wouldn’t need to lip-read or be left out of the conversation.
Live Transcribe for iOS is an attempt to give Deaf and HoH people the most powerful tool we can possibly build with the available technology on iOS.
When building accessibility tools, it’s hard to think of good reasons to wait. But certainly COVID-19 has created more urgency.
With social distancing protocols and mask-wearing making communication difficult, aids for Deaf and HoH folks are more important than ever.
Over the past few months, we’ve pushed ourselves to get the app ready for those who need it now. We’re also looking into ways to offer special access to medical professionals.
Doesn’t Google already have a Live Transcribe app?
Yes. My view is that “Live Transcribe,” as a concept, has become part of the vernacular of the Deaf and HoH communities.
Google and its Live Transcribe app deserve great applause for serving Android users from the Deaf and HoH communities.
Live Transcribe for iOS fills a gap.
I want to provide a dedicated speech-to-text experience for the Deaf and HoH communities — but on the iOS platform.
Will Live Transcribe for iOS be a paid app?
Yes. Live Transcribe for iOS is a subscription-supported app that costs $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year.
We made this decision after talking to our beta testers and friends in the community. A subscription model allows those who share our goal of making a great accessibility app to invest in the app’s maintenance and improvement.
Subscriptions will support our small team, many members of which work 40 hours a week on Live Transcribe for iOS in addition to their day jobs and family responsibilities.