WSJ: Smart Assistants Learning Atypical Speech Patterns

Better accessibility for those who stutter or with dysarthria

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are all working to create better accessibility in their smart assistants for those with atypical speech due to illnesses like ALS, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, mouth cancer, and to those who may stutter. Typically, smart assistants rely on a short interval of listening when called upon, making it difficult for those with slurred or delayed speech to make a full request in time.

Apple already offers a Hold to Talk feature, which allows a user to pre-program the amount of time Siri listens to requests, but the company is looking for ways in which the smart assistant can auto-detect atypical speech and adjust its wait time accordingly. Similarly, Google is training its software to recognize atypical speech patterns.

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