27 January, 2021

Google Look to Speak App Lets People Use Their Eyes to Select Phrases to Be Said Aloud

Look to Speak allows users to personalise words and phrases.

Google’s Look to Speak has been launched as an experimentation app that enables people to use their eyes to select pre-written phrases on their phone and have them spoken aloud. Look to Speak is rolling out on Android and is compatible with Android 9 and above, as well as Android One. To operate the app, a person needs to look left, right, or up to quickly select what they want to say from a list of phrases. The eye gaze settings can be adjusted within the app.

Look to Speak is a Start with One project on the Experiments with Google platform, made by Google Creative Lab in collaboration with Sarah Ezekiel and Richard Cave, Speech and Language Therapist with Google. You can download the app on Google Play.

On the app, one can personalise words and phrases too, allowing for people to share their authentic voice. It is important to look all the way to the left, right, and up, so that the gaze is registered as deliberate by the Look to Speak app. Users need to look away from the device to trigger actions, as per a tip shared in the app’s guide.

“Throughout the design process, we reached out to a small group of people who might benefit from a communication tool like this. What was amazing to see was how Look To Speak could work where other communication devices couldn’t easily go—for example, in outdoors, in transit, in the shower and in urgent situations,” wrote Cave in a blog post, explaining the app.

To use Look to Speak, the device needs to be placed in front of the user’s face, a little below the eye level. Positioning the device to the user’s side could result in the eye movements not being interpreted correctly. The Setup Helper in the menu can help position the device properly. When sound feedback is enabled on the app, a ping sound alert will signal that a gaze has been registered. You can adjust the length for each gesture needed to trigger an action; users can choose to speed it up once they are familiar with the interaction. It is also possible to snooze the app using eye movements.