Here’s the last article in our “Favorite 5” series, which showcases items from “Consumer Technology, Assistive Technology, and the Latest in Electronic Tech.” (For the full “Favorite 5” list, see the last section of the Consumer Technology article: “BridgingApps Picks for the Best New Consumer Technologies.”)
To many people, hearing loss is the most isolating disability of all, reducing meaningful communication to a complicated and exhausting process. Hearing aids are often prohibitively expensive or personally ineffective. “Speechreading” lip movements and facial expressions takes a lot of concentration. Even speech-to-text apps require constant shifting of visual focus between speaker and screen. With one person in 20 having hearing loss significant enough to constitute a disability—and the figure projected to double in another generation—the need for better solutions constitutes an ever-growing market.
Now, a new company called Xander has introduced a better solution based on the idea that “Everyone [not just those talking through captioned screens] should come with subtitles.” XanderGlasses are hardly distinguishable from everyday eyeglasses, but rather than compensating for poor vision, they use noise-cancelling microphones to “translate” spoken words into captions. As the words are spoken, the captions scroll across a transparent screen in the XanderGlasses lenses, allowing the wearer to visually follow the words while still looking at the speaker.
Tested by multiple users with profoundly impaired hearing, the captions are 90 percent accurate even in noisy settings (which will also be appreciated by people whose difficulties are less with hearing than with focusing on one conversation among many). No phone or Wi-Fi connection is necessary—the glasses are 100 percent self-contained. And getting started is as simple as pushing a button—without complicated downloads or charging procedures.
In addition, the glasses are individually customizable: users can position the caption screen wherever they prefer in a field of vision, and can even get prescription-lens inserts so their XanderGlasses double as ordinary glasses.
Additional, Xander-recommended resources:
- About Hearing Loss
- Behind the Glasses with Alex
- CES 2023’s Most Innovative Assistive Tech: Jabra, Whispp and More (Wall Street Journal website)
- Las Vegas: The City of Noise Brings Us Enhanced Listening (Hearing Loss Association of America)
- Live Subtitles in Augmented Reality Glasses
- Reactions to XanderGlasses
- Stair-Climbing Wheelchairs, Closed-Caption Glasses: Assistive Tech Gains at CES in Las Vegas (Wall Street Journal)
- Vuzix Blade Powers Xander’s Real-Time Captioning XanderGlasses (Geek News Central)