An App That Lets You Converse With The Deaf, No Sign Language Necessary

Transcense is a new app that accurately translates conversations in real time so the deaf and hard of hearing can participate in meetings, presentations and conversations.

Founders Thibault Duchemin, Pieter Doevendans and Skinner Cheng say one-on-one conversations are easy for the deaf. Either they are speaking with someone who can sign or they can just read lips. However, it’s very hard to follow group conversations with several people speaking at once. This makes it hard to catch things and converse during group meals with friends who don’t sign or at an office meeting where they might miss something important. This app is personal for two of the three founders. Cheng has been deaf since he was two and Duchemin is a coda, meaning he grew up with deaf family members.


Transcense is developing its first app through the BoostVC accelerator program. It works by catching conversations from the voices of different individuals and assigning them a color bubble so the deaf person knows who said what. It works with a distributed microphone system on all the devices using the app so that it can distinguish each person from another. It then translates those words and starts jotting them down in real time on the app. The deaf and hard of hearing can then read what is going on as it happens. But why tell you when we can show you this demo of how the app works:

The founders have launched an Indiegogo campaign to help them raise $25,000. They’d like to use those funds to further spread the word about their project.

Transcense actually attempts to solve two problems. One is obviously helping the deaf keep up with the group conversation. The other is cutting down on costs for the deaf and hard of hearing. It’s very expensive to hire an interpreter. Estimates range from $70-$120 per hour. Transcense will be $360 per year, or $150 for one year if you contribute that amount to the campaign.

There are a couple of technologies out right now that are working on helping the deaf converse withe the hearing in similar ways. All use different technology. Transence is the first I’ve personally seen with use on a smartphone and real time conversation. MotionSavvy is another technology that works with the LeapMotion tablet to decipher the hand signs in sign language and relay those to the person on the other end. Mimic Mouth was an Indiegogo campaign that failed to reach its goal but nonetheless had the noble idea of helping the deaf and others interested to read lips so they could follow the conversation. All the tech out (prove me wrong if you see something awesome I should know about) seem to be in very early stages.

Transcense is early days as well. It’s being tested in private beta at the moment. Those interested in participating or finding out more can sign up on the Transcense website.