Deaf Hearing Chat

DH Chat is a mobile phone and/or tablet application for face-to-face (or nearby) communication between deaf and hearing people that runs on two Bluetooth linked devices. For a deaf person it enables speech to be converted to text, which is sent to the device he/she is using and then, as necessary, responded to. In circumstances where one party is Deaf and uses sign language and the other doesn't, communication via text is possible. It is available for both Android (4.2 and higher) and Apple iOS (version requirements unknown) platforms and is downloadable from the appropriate sites. Most of what follows in this post relates to my assessment of DH Chat on two Android devices.

Overall description
The Google Play's description for DH-Chat states that it has the potential to allow a deaf person to communicate with hearing people in a shop, a hospital, a bank, etc. To this I would add that the app can be useful in noisy environments and, is also applicable for communications between two deaf people. For DH Chat to work there needs to be two devices available with the DH-Chat application installed on both. Actually, there are two complementary versions of the DH Chat application, one named Deaf-Hearing Chat Device-H for the hearing person, the other, Deaf-Hearing Chat Device-D, for the deaf persons. In certain situations it may be more appropriate to use the Deaf-Hearing Chat Device-H on both devices. A typical arrangement for DH Chat is shown diagrammatically in the image below.

Application Download information
Links to download sites are:
 Deaf Hearing Chat on Google Play  Deaf Hearing Chat on Apple App Store
Cost are: Android version, Deaf-Hearing chat device H, A$7.50 and for Deaf-Hearing chat device D, A$4.99. The author states that funds raised will be used for further development.
The main difference between the apps is that DH-Chat for device D doesn't feature a direct “Speak and Send” function. In my circumstances, being a deafened adult who retains verbal ability, it probably would have been better to use two instances of DH-Chat H and this arrangement is said to work just as well.

My appraisal
1. Setup DH-Chat
I installed the DH-Chat D on a 6.4-inch Xperia Z Ultra as this is my mobile phone/tablet for texting and data. Because I am profoundly deaf I can’t successfully use mobile voice calls. Next I acquired a budget priced 4-inch Zet T815 to install the DH-Chat H on. Both installations were relatively simple and after pairing the devices I had no trouble in getting speech-to-text working using either WiFi or a G3 connection. Overall, the system worked well and provided I got the hearing person to speak clearly and not too quickly, reliable text messages flowed between devices.

A diagrammatic view of typical conversation flow between the device for the hearing person and the deaf person is shown below.

2. Offline speech to text -limitations
Where I had problems was getting the offline speech to text recognition to work on the Zet T815 device and consequently the “Speak and Send” function did not work on the Zet device when WiFi and G3 were turned off. One possible explanation I was able to find was that Google excluded from some lower cost Jellybean devices the feature of downloading offline language files due to hardware limitations. On the Xperia Z Ultra I used the voice input from the virtual keyboard and this worked offline; admittedly not as well as when online. It appears to me that the downloadable language files, required to make the offline speech to text work, do not have the same accuracy (a limited dictionary) as the online conversion process.

3. Online speech to text functions worked well  
When WiFi or G3 mobile networks were available (with sufficient signal strength) the speech to text function worked well; there was little delay and the conversion was reasonable accurate. The “Say and Send” and “Voice Input” features worked best for creating a natural flow of conversation and detected a normal pause between sentences. The alternative voice input i.e. using the microphone on the virtual keyboard, requires a “Tap to pause” and then a “Send” tap to transfer the text.
4. Testing in noise
I tested the system in noisy conditions, where I found it almost impossible to hear via my implant and DH-Chat system delivered text output that I could understand. 

5. Suggested additional features
(a) It would be of benefit if the conversation text could be saved to a text file and, shared with other applications.
(b) The displayed text is large and easily read, but perhaps some setting on text size would be appropriate; particularly on small screen devices.
(c) Maybe one application to cover both users (the deaf and hearing) may be more appropriate than two separate ones. Then, features appropriate to the particular user could be turned on or off.

Links to other information:
• Author’s Blogger site: Deaf - Hearing chat information, link here
• Author’s web site - Sarslander's systems for deaf, link here

The date for this post is : 16th Feb 2015

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