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Wearable Subtitles: Augmenting Spoken Communication with Lightweight Eyewear for All-day Captioning

Kevin Balke
Dmitrii Votintcev
Thad Starner
Bonnie Chinh
Benoit Corda
Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA (2020), 1108–1120


Mobile solutions can help transform speech and sound into visual representations for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing (DHH). However, where handheld phones present challenges, head-worn displays (HWDs) could further communication through privately transcribed text, hands-free use, improved mobility, and socially acceptable interactions. Wearable Subtitles is a lightweight 3D-printed proof-of-concept HWD that explores augmenting communication through sound transcription for a full workday. Using a low-power microcontroller architecture, we enable up to 15 hours of continuous use. We describe a large survey (n=501) and three user studies with 24 deaf/hard-of-hearing participants which inform our development and help us refine our prototypes. Our studies and prior research identify critical challenges for the adoption of HWDs which we address through extended battery life, lightweight and balanced mechanical design (54 g), fitting options, and form factors that are compatible with current social norms.