Rhema tech coaches public speakers via Google Glass

Rhema lets public speakers know how they're doing, in real time

Many people absolutely hate public speaking, in part because they think that they simply aren't good enough at doing it. Well, that's why Rhema was created. Developed at the University of Rochester and named after the Greek word for "utterance," it delivers real-time performance feedback to the speaker via their Google Glass headset.

Here's how the system works.

As the user speaks, the microphone in their glasses records their voice, which is then transmitted to a server. There, software analyzes the volume and speed at which the person is talking, and determines if either are outside of the optimal range. If they are, a notification is transmitted back from the server to the glasses, where it appears as a visual display.

Given that people who need Rhema might already be pretty nervous, however, the last thing they'd need is to be confused by trying to interpret alerts as they were talking. To that end, the researchers experimented with different types of notifications. These included graphs, text messages and traffic light-like colors. They also looked at using both a continuously-updating display that was up all the time, and individual messages that only appeared sporadically.

According to test subjects who used the system, the best type of notification took the form of a simple two-word message (i.e: "Louder Slower") that came up for a few seconds, once every 20 seconds. One might wonder if they would noticeably pause whenever one of those messages came up, although according to audiences who watched the test subjects giving speeches, they never appeared to be any more stiff or distracted than subjects who weren't receiving any feedback.

Led by assistant professor of computer science Ehsan Hoque, the Rochester team believe that Rhema might also be useful for people with social problems such as Asperger syndrome, or for people working in customer service.

Should you be interested in trying it out – and have access to a Google Glass headset – Rhema is available for free from the research group's website.

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