Chord Assist: What’s happening?

Joe Birch
Joe Birch
Apr 8 · 3 min read

If you’ve been following me along online, you may have seen a recent side-project I launched — Chord Assist, an accessible guitar for the blind, deaf and mute. If you haven’t already, you can check out the project here:


I spent about 6 months on this project and it being something I’m quite passionate about, I’d love to share some things with what’s going on with it next!

If you haven’t seen already, Chord Assist has been nominated for a Webby Award. It’s in for the chance to win 2 awards, one of which can be voted for by you. If you get a moment, I would really appreciate for you to vote (and even share!) for it in the contest. I never thought it would get nominated as it’s quite a big award, but the coverage accessible tech would get is huge!


I’m currently trying to find and get people to use the instrument. I want this to me something that people can really gain something from, as nothing currently exists to do so. I’m currently sourcing people in Sussex (in the UK), but would be happy to chat to anyone else (or be put in touch with people or groups you may know of!).


There’s also a couple of things I want to do to improve the guitar, be it before or after the user testing.

  • Add an amplifier — Currently the speaker isn’t too loud. Even for testing, having an amplifier will help remove any issues when it comes to hearing the output.
  • Fix some bugs — As with any project, there are bugs — luckily they’re not blocking! For example, the switches used to toggle the braille, screen and speaker are a little flakey and don’t always reflect the selected state. I think this is both a software / hardware issue.
  • Improve the conversational flow — When speaking to the conversational tool, there are a couple of paths which end up in an unresponsive state. In general, the conversational tool could do with some improvements anyway — but it being a core part of the product, this needs to be 💯

I’ll be speaking about Chord Assist at a few conferences and meet-ups this year. I’ll update these here (and on Twitter) as the schedules comes out. There are a few podcasts also which I’ll be talking about these technologies used, hopefully this will help to share some insights into how the product was built.

If you’re running a conference, meet-up or podcast and want me to chat about Chord Assist, assistive technology or ‘making’ then please reach out 🙌


I released the ‘brain’ of Chord Assist as a standalone Actions on Google project — you can check this out on all devices that support the assistant, here!

The code used to build this is also open-source at https://github.com/hitherejoe/ChordAssist

And if you want to read more about how this was built, using the Kotlin client library for Actions on Google, then you can do here: https://joebirch.co/2019/03/07/chords-conversations-and-the-kotlin-client-library/

I’ll be continuing work on the stand-alone product and hopefully bringing in some of the relevant features into the physical guitar.


Thanks for taking the time to read this so far! I’ll be adding to this post as things change, but for now please reach out if you’d love to learn more, or have me share more, about the project 🙌

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Joe Birch

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Joe Birch

Android Engineering Lead at Buffer, Google Developer Expert for Android & Flutter - Passionate about mobile development and learning. www.joebirch.co

Exploring Android

Deep dives + how-to articles for the latest android platform features