You want Madhav Lavakare and Tom Pritsky in your corner. The two developed a device that lets deaf persons read captions right on their eyeglasses. Their collaboration generated TranscribeGlass.
In 2017, Lavakare learned that a deaf friend had quit high school because of problems related to a lack of hearing. Lavakare couldn’t believe there was nothing to help his friend “participate in conversations in a mainstream setting.”
In a striking example of loving others, Lavakare went to work. He began building prototypes of a device that could help Deaf community members. He wanted the hearing impaired to see captions in their normal field of vision without looking down or at a screen—something referred to as “heads-up” captioning.
To do this, Lavakare began mashing up augmented reality (AR) and live captioning, electronics and software. He wrote the code himself.
By 2020, his project was gaining traction. But Lavakare called himself “an 18-year-old kid who didn’t know what he was doing.”
That’s where Pritsky came in. Pritsky has had hearing loss since age three. He lip reads and uses hearing aids. He always wanted a heads-up captioning device.
“I really like captions for movies,” Pritsky says. “I thought it would be fantastic to have them for real life.”
Like Lavakare, Pritsky was independently working on captioning glasses.
The two met through a mutual friend and realized their common goal. Lavakare calls Pritsky’s user perspective “very powerful.”
The duo’s ideas and experience led to TranscribeGlass. The company website describes the product as “affordable real-time captioning glasses.” Affordable is important to Lavakare and Pritsky since the expense of hearing aids—which often aren’t covered by insurance—can be a barrier to use.
A client attaches the less than three-inch TranscribeGlass to any pair of eyeglasses. Next, the user connects the device to any software that transcribes speech. The device projects captions onto the lens just as someone is speaking.
TranscribeGlass helps with directions, uncaptioned movies, doctor visits, museum tours, and more. Lavakare and Pritsky say their product isn’t just for deaf people. They hope the elderly and anyone with trouble communicating benefit from the product.
Pritsky recalls a moment piloting TranscribeGlass with a deaf friend. In order to converse, the friend normally had to see the speaker. So walking from one place to another involved lots of stop and go. With TranscribeGlass, Pritsky and his friend had an entire conversation strolling side by side.
Pritsky says, “We have never had an exchange like that in the many years that I’ve known him.”
Love your neighbor as yourself. — Mark 12:31
Why? Hearing loss is an obstacle to community, as it can prevent deaf people from bringing all their gifts fully to others for relationship, benefit, and growth. Finding solutions that draw everyone in can serve the whole of humanity.