Chennai

Firm develops speech to tactile solution for hearing impaired

A student tries out the Rhema Speak to Tactile system at the CSI School for the Deaf.—photo: special arrangement

A student tries out the Rhema Speak to Tactile system at the CSI School for the Deaf.—photo: special arrangement

Class XII student D. Nava Rashika carefully places her hand on a tactile board, which is about the size of her palm with tiny switches. When a word is spoken into the microphone, she carefully feels which lever remains depressed and which springs up. Once the tactile board goes still, she points to the word ‘Amma’ on the chart shown to her.

Nava Rashika is one of the students at the CSI School for the Deaf and she is trying out the new ‘Rhema – Speak to Hear Tactile Device,’ developed by Sharon Systems, a Chennai-based company. The system is designed for people who are hearing impaired and will allow them to follow conversations and even help people with a speech disability.

According to Samuel Martyn, executive consultant of the company, the idea to create it was stemmed after several years of interaction with hearing and speech impaired people. “Once I got into the field of computers, I thought this was the logical solution. Rhema, which means ‘spoken word’ in Greek, was the most logical name for the system,” he said.

Rhema uses concepts from Pittman’s shorthand and the Hebrew logic to convert phonetics into a series of dots on the system, which in turn result in switches flipping on the tactile (recognised by a sense of touch) board. “There are 27 basic characters, which will take around a week to master. After that, they will be able to ‘hear’ people speak around them,” Mr. Martyn said.

The team is planning to make their system an open source for more people to benefit. Apart from the desktop version, they have also developed a version that can be used by people on the move. “The system will be worn around the waist and will have a microphone that can convert words into phonetics,” he added. Rhema, which was launched on Friday, will be used by the students of the CSI School for the Deaf so they can attend lectures.


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Printable version | Sep 29, 2022 11:00:17 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/firm-develops-speech-to-tactile-solution-for-hearing-impaired/article7314040.ece