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Sound-based assistive technology : support to hearing, speaking and seeing
Ifukube T., Springer International Publishing, New York, NY, 2017. 239 pp.  Type: Book (978-3-319479-96-5)
Date Reviewed: Feb 7 2018

As individuals are living longer lives, there is considerable interest in assistive technologies: those devices designed with the goal of supporting individuals with impairments from age or other causes. The author is an expert in the field, having researched and developed assistive technology prototypes for over 45 years. Coverage in the book includes a survey of prototypes and research on how sounds are used in assistive technology, from using sight and tactile stimulation to compensate for a hearing impairment, to captioning systems and speech recognition word processors.

An introduction to the field is provided in the leading chapter, providing a biological discussion of how sound is recognized and produced, alongside an economic and societal motivation that speaks to the importance of the subject matter. The remaining chapters can be read in any order. While the chapter content serves as a nice introduction survey, there is heavy inclusion of the author’s own research.

Although the leading chapter has several cartoonish figures that distract from the subject introduction, the remainder of the book is complemented by many scientific figures that enhance each chapter’s presentation.

Other texts that complement this book include Clear speech: technologies that enable the expression and reception of language [1] and The path of speech technologies in computer assisted language learning: from research to practice [2]; both texts present a gentle mathematical and biological background to the subject matter and also discuss various technological adaptations, prototypes, and their evaluations. Additionally, the classic natural language processing text, Speech and language processing [3] includes an extensive unit on speech recognition and speech synthesis that surveys, in detail, many approaches and techniques relevant to speech and linguistic modeling. However, it is a more demanding text that may only be appropriate for readers with a sufficient mathematics and linguistics background.

This book is recommended for any individual who is interested in learning more about assistive technology and has limited prior knowledge. Some of the survey content would benefit from more detail, and readers will have to follow the end-of-chapter references to achieve a more complete understanding. However, this book provides a short overview of the subject matter and will lead the reader in the right direction to related works. It adequately describes the current problems in the field and the ultimate goal. While the current state of the art is described throughout (for example, Apple’s Siri), current breakthroughs in this rapidly advancing field may make some aspects of the text outdated in a short period of time.

Reviewer:  Richard Burns Review #: CR145837 (1804-0175)
1) Rudzicz, F. Clear speech: technologies that enable the expression and reception of language. Morgan & Claypool, San Rafael, CA, 2016.
2) Holland, V. M.; Fisher, F. P. The path of speech technologies in computer assisted language learning: from research to practice. Routledge, New York, NY, 2007.
3) Jurafsky, D.; Martin, J. Speech and language processing. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2009.
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Assistive Technologies For Persons With Disabilities (K.4.2 ... )
Natural Language Processing (I.2.7 )
Sound And Music Computing (H.5.5 )
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