Wearable technology can help with public speaking

March 30, 2015, University of Rochester
On the left, a speaker wears Google Glass, and on the right, the view of the audience from the speaker's perspective with the real-time feedback provided by the Rhema system. Credit: M. Iftekhar Tanveer, et al

Speaking in public is the top fear for many people. Now, researchers from the Human-Computer Interaction Group at the University of Rochester have developed an intelligent user interface for "smart glasses" that gives real-time feedback to the speaker on volume modulation and speaking rate, while being minimally distracting.

The Rochester team describes the system, which they have called Rhema after the Greek word for "utterance," in a paper that will be presented on Tuesday, March 31 at the Association for Computer Machinery's Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI) conference in Atlanta.

Smart glasses with Rhema installed can record a , transmit the audio to a server to automatically analyze the volume and speaking rate, and then present the data to the speaker in real time. This feedback allows a speaker to adjust the volume and speaking rate or continue as before.

Ehsan Hoque, assistant professor of computer science and senior author of the paper, used the system himself while giving lectures last term. "My wife always tells me that I end up speaking too softly," he says. "Rhema reminded me to keep my volume up. It was a good experience." He feels the practice has helped him become more aware of his volume, even when he is not wearing the .

In the paper, Hoque and his students M. Iftekhar Tanveer and Emy Lin explain that providing feedback in real-time during a speech presents some challenges. "One challenge is to keep the speakers informed about their speaking performance without distracting them from their speech," they write. "A significant enough distraction can introduce unnatural behaviors, such as stuttering or awkward pausing. Secondly, the head mounted display is positioned near the eye, which might cause inadvertent attention shifts."

Tanveer, the lead author of the paper, explains that overcoming these challenges was their focus. To do this, they tested the system with a group of 30 native English speakers using Google Glasses. They evaluated different options of delivering the feedback. They experimented with using different colors (like a traffic light system), words and graphs, and no feedback at all (control). They also tried having a continuous slowly changing display and a sparse feedback system, by which the speaker sees nothing on the glasses for most of the time and then just sees feedback for a few seconds. After user-testing, delivering feedback in every 20 seconds in the form of words ("louder," "slower," nothing if speaker is doing a good job, etc.) was deemed the most successful by most of the test users.

Wearable technology can help with public speaking
Usage scenario for a Google Glass-based real-time feedback system. Credit: M. Iftekhar Tanveer et al

The researchers also highlight that the users, overall, felt it helped them improve their delivery compared to the users who received continuous feedback and no feedback at all. They also addressed the system from the point of view of the audience and enlisted 10 Mechanical Turk workers.

"We wanted to check if the speaker looking at the feedback appearing on the glasses would be distracting to the audience," Hoque said. "We also wanted the audience to rate if the person appeared spontaneous, paused too much, used too many filler words and maintained good eye contact under the three conditions: word feedback, continuous feedback, and no feedback."

However, there was no statistically significant difference among the three groups on eye contact, use of filler words, being distracted, and appearing stiff, judged by the Mechanical Turk workers. As part of their future work, the researchers want to test their system with members of Toastmasters International as a more knowledgeable audience.

The researchers also believe that live displayed in a private and non-intrusive manner could also be useful for people with social difficulties (e.g., Asperger syndrome), and even for people working in customer service.

Explore further: Finger-mounted reading device for the blind

More information: Rhema is freely available for download from the team's website: www.cs.rochester.edu/hci/curre … projects.php?proj=rh.

Related Stories

Finger-mounted reading device for the blind

March 10, 2015

Researchers at the MIT Media Laboratory have built a prototype of a finger-mounted device with a built-in camera that converts written text into audio for visually impaired users. The device provides feedback—either tactile ...

People rely on what they hear to know what they are saying

April 29, 2014

You know what you're going to say before you say it, right? Not necessarily, research suggests. A study from researchers at Lund University in Sweden shows that auditory feedback plays an important role in helping us determine ...

Researcher wins best paper award for automated interview coach

September 11, 2013

University of Rochester researcher M. Ehsan Hoque has won a best paper award at the 2013 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp 2013) for a computer system designed to help people ...

Recommended for you

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.