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April 15, 2015

New system provides real-time feedback to speakers

young man wearing smart glasses
Researchers have developed an interface for “smart” glasses that provides real-time feedback for public speakers.

Researchers from the Human-Computer Interaction Group at the University have developed an intelligent user interface for “smart glasses” that gives real-time feedback to a speaker.

The Rochester team describes the system, which they have called Rhema after the Greek word for “utterance,” in a paper presented at the Association for Computer Machinery’s Intelligent User Interfaces conference in Atlanta.

Smart glasses with Rhema installed can record a speaker, 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. The 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 smart glasses.

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.”

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.

Rhema is available for download from the team’s website:

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