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Samba provides deaf and hearing-impaired college students with vital support

Samba is a hardware and software solution that helps college campuses improve the delivery of services to deaf and hearing-impaired students. Developed by Grenoble-Alpes University and CEA Tech with financing from the university’s IDEX grant and IRT Nanoelec, the solution was recently improved based on feedback from field testing.

Published on 7 September 2020

​Grenoble-Alpes University and CEA Tech developed a real-time speech-to-text solution to help university staff better serve hearing-impaired students on campus. The beta version of the solution consisted of a modular unit that housed two displays and a computer. After two rounds of field-testing at the university’s center for services for students with disabilities with the support of laboratory AGEIS, several improvements were made.

Specifically, feedback from end users indicated that the system would better meet their needs if it was smaller. In research conducted under the IRT Nanoelec Pulse program, the joint AGEIS (Grenoble-Alpes University) and Y.SPOT (CEA Tech) team used an iterative and incremental development approach to come up with a direction-adjustable unit that houses two 10-inch horizontal displays mounted back to back instead of the 15-inch vertical displays used in the first prototype.. When placed between the student and university staff member, the new, more compact desktop version does not prevent the student from going back and forth between the text on the screen and the speaker’s face. It is almost like reading subtitles.

A design to target-cost objective approach was used to reduce the number of components and simplify the assembly process. In addition to making the final product more affordable, this should also make it easier to assemble by disabled workers, another one of the project’s goals. The new prototype also has a strong visual identity, with an easy-to-identify logo and original surface texturing. The software and interface were also improved based on feedback from the first round of user testing. It now “speaks” five languages and the conversation can be sent by email. Ultimately, real-time machine translation would be added to the system, potentially broadening Samba’s target market. 

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