Project Understood: Google making voice technology more inclusive .

Technology Articles



Anna Frierson is thriving at Chattanooga State Community College, but it’s what happens at home that Anna’s father says helps translate in the classroom: the use of technology to learn. (Image: WTVC)

Millions of people use voice technology every day to do everyday tasks.

You can ask for directions, suggestions for places to eat, and even what to watch on TV.

But some people do not have the same luxury, simply because they are not understood.

Aaron Farrar shares how one local teenager with Down syndrome is helping make sure everyone can be included in this emerging technology.

Anna Frierson is thriving at Chattanooga State Community College, even impressing culinary arts director Matthew Williamson with her skills in the kitchen.

“It’s been neat to watch Anna break out of her shell and be able to accomplish some amazing goals," says Williamson.

But it’s what happens at home that Anna’s father, Jim, says helps translate in the classroom: The use of technology to learn.

“It brings a smile to her when this can interact successfully with her," says Jim Frierson.

Anna has Down syndrome and is now giving a shot at using voice technology, which is becoming popular.

But there are times this same technology does not understand what Anna says because her speech sounds different than her typical peers.

And it’s frustrating.

Google and the Canadian Down Syndrome Society are teaming up to improve voice recognition through a campaign called “Project Understood.”

Its success can be beneficial for Anna at home and college.

“Being able to have some kind of technology that would be able to send reminders or just that reinforce different things would be so helpful," says Williamson.

“Even more personalized, even more customized to the unique needs of those with both speech and cognitive challenges," says Jim.

Anna and hundreds of others will record themselves saying short phrases and send them to researchers.

By listening to voice patterns, researchers hope to enhance their software to better understand people of ALL abilities.

“We’re talking about a device that can in some ways be a useful companion, can be a teacher, can learn from you the user, can learn with you, and can tie you to the rest of the world," says Jim Frierson.

Project Understood is still in its early stages. Right now, Google researchers want to collect at least 500 different voice samples to analyze and work with, but are hoping for way more.

If you’re interested in donating your voice, check out Project Understood's website here.

Project Understood launched in May 2019.