Google's new Project Relate app aims to help people with speech impairments communicate

The company is looking for people to test the app and provide feedback.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read

Project Relate is trained on people's unique speech patterns to facilitate communications with others and with the Google Assistant.


Google is developing and testing an app designed to help people with speech impairments more easily communicate with others. Project Relate, an app for Android, is now inviting an "initial group of people" to test the product, the company said in a blog post Tuesday. The app is also designed to help facilitate interactions with the Google Assistant.

"[We] realized that our speech recognition technology could be improved to help people with speech impairments be better understood," Julie Cattiau, product manager in Google Research, said during an Inventors @ Google virtual event Tuesday. "Standard speech recognition doesn't always work as well for people with atypical speech because the algorithms have not been trained on samples of their speech."

So Google decided to make an app that would be "custom-trained on individuals' unique speech patterns," Cattiau said. To start, users record a set of phrases so the app can get to know how they talk. Then, Google uses speech data to personalize the technology and help users carry out commands.

The Relate app includes three key features. Listen transcribes what someone is saying in real time, allowing them to send what they've said as a text, copy and paste it into other apps or let people read what they're saying. Repeat restates what someone says in a clear computerized voice, hopefully making face-to-face interactions more seamless. Lastly, Assistant connects with the Google Assistant to carry out commands such as "Take a selfie," "Turn off the lights" or "Play music."

Google is looking for English-speaking testers in the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand to try the app and give feedback. Early testers of Project Relate will be asked to record some phrases, which the app will then use to better understand their unique speech patterns. Then, they'll be given access to the Listen, Repeat and Assistant features. Anyone interested in testing the Project Relate app can fill out a form at g.co/ProjectRelate. The team will respond "in the coming months," Google says.

Project Relate is part of Google's ongoing effort to make technology more accessible to people with disabilities. Other apps and features the company has launched in recent years include Live Transcribe, which provides real-time speech-to-text transcriptions for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and Lookout, which helps people who are blind or low-vision identify food labels, pinpoint objects in a room and scan documents and currency.