People with Down Syndrome Teach Google to Understand Them


By The Denver Egotist / /

The future is voice-first, but not for everyone. Because of their unique speech patterns, voice technology doesn’t always understand people with Down syndrome. By 2023, it’s predicted that there will be 8 billion voice-enabled assistants. But what if the people who need them most are being left out?

That’s the impetus for the Canadian Down Syndrome Society’s new program “Project Understood” — a partnership with Google to ensure that people with Down syndrome aren’t left behind by the changes reshaping the digital world.

Because people with Down syndrome have different facial skeletal and muscular systems, voice technology doesn’t always understand their speech patterns — according to Google, the error rate is on average one in every three words. This can be frustrating and counterproductive to voice technology’s purpose of providing ease and freedom in daily life. “Project Understood” aims to collect voice data from adults with Down syndrome in order to improve its voice recognition models. Machines learn through data. The more data they get, the more accurate they are.

CDSS worked with FCB Canada to create a series of videos to ask people with Down syndrome to “teach” Google. Though people with Down syndrome are often associated with needing help, the campaign flips the stereotype around and turns them into the helpers.


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