Public speaking is terrifying -- and I'm not the only one who feels this way. A much cited poll revealed that for more than half of us, the prospect is worse than death. This may sound extreme but then you think about getting up in front of a huge audience…and suddenly, it doesn't sound that far-fetched. Fortunately, there is help.
A group of researchers from the Human-Computer Interaction Group at the University of Rochester have developed a "smart glass" app to help those of us who are not naturally gifted at getting up in front of a crowd. Dubbed Rhema (after the Greek word for "utterance"), the app uploads speakers' audio and then provides real-time feedback on volume modulation and speaking rate. As the authors rightly note, because "a significant enough distraction can introduce unnatural behaviors, such as stuttering or awkward pausing" the goal is to provide feedback without causing any visibly weird reactions.
To determine the best method for this, the researchers had 30 subjects test out different indicators -- from a traffic light blinker to words and graphs. The most helpful, they determined, was a system that every 20 seconds flashes advice ("louder," "slower," or nothing if speaker is en pointe.)
Overall, participants reported that the app helped them improve their delivery.
The app's usefulness could extend beyond public speaking, the authors theorize, by potentially helping individuals with social difficulties, such as autism, as well as the efficacy of people working in sales or customer service.
Rhema is available for download here, although keep in mind it only runs on Google Glass.