Google airs Oscar ads via Android’s Look to Speak app

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Back in 2020, Google released an experimental Android app that allows people with speech and motor disabilities to communicate by tracking their gaze. Look to Speak got a high profile Google ad at the Oscars tonight.

Look to Speak uses your Android phone‘s front camera to allow users to glance left or right to select from a list of phrases, which are then read using text-to-speech. The phone is placed (preferably mounted) in front of a user, requiring a clear view of their eyes. Besides setting what text is displayed:

Customization options allow users to set the off-screen gaze distance (near, medium, and far) and the gaze duration required to trigger. A feedback ping is available to confirm each selection. The app can be paused/snoozed (by looking up) at any time so it’s not always looking for your eyes.

Developed by the Google Creative Lab, the app was updated in November to operate in additional languages. Look to Speak is available on phones running Android 9 and higher on the Play Store.

Google’s minute-long ad shows close-ups of people’s eyes before showing a demo of Look to Speak in action. A screen capture from a Pixel 5a/5/4a 5G appears to be edited over an unknown device (in a case) with volume rocker on the left edge and six rear camera cutouts. It aired two hours after it aired.

The ad ends with the Google name “Look to Speak” and a “Technology that’s built to help” slogan before ending on the company logo. A version of this video with audio description is available here.

Earlier in the evening, Snap aired an ad about Fingerspelling Lenses, while Meta showed off its month-old WhatsApp end-to-end encryption clip.

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