A Chennai-Based Company Designs a Tactile System for the Hearing Impaired to Understand Speech


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Sharon Systems, Chennai, has developed a tactile system to enable people with auditory impairment to be able to identify and understand the speech around them with the use of phonetics.

Though our time and world have made quite a few changes to make the society more inclusive for people with impairments, there are still many changes waiting to happen.

Taking a step in the direction of one such change, a Chennai-based firm Sharon Systems has developed a system called ‘Rhema -Speak to Hear Tactile Device’.
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Photo for representational purpose only. Courtesy : AMMA

Designed specifically for people with auditory impairments, the device will allow them to follow conversations and also help out people with speech disabilities. Rhema means the spoken word in Greek and hence the name of the device.

It uses concepts from the Hebrew logic and Pittman’s shorthand to convert phonetics into a series of dots on the system, which makes the switches to flip on the tactile (working on a sense of touch) board.

So if a person wishes to use it, she would place her hand on the tactile board. The board is small, about the size of a regular palm, with switches on it. When a word is spoken into the microphone, the levers in the board either spring up or remain as they were before.

There are 27 basic characters, which will take around a week to master. Once the user learns to recognize the characters, she can use the levers to identify the word and understand and ‘hear’ what is being spoken.

Samuel Martyn, executive consultant of the company, told The Hindu that the idea stemmed from his frequent interactions with people from varied impairments and once he started working with computers, he thought of the system as a logical solution to the issue.

As per the current plans, the system will be an open source for more people to benefit. There is a desktop version and there is a ‘mobile’ version which will be worn around the waist and will have a microphone that will convert the spoken bit into phonetics.

The system, launched on June 12, is already being used by the students at the CSI School for the Deaf for attending lectures.

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