LAUNCH! AccentTraining.net – American Accent Rating and Training

What do you get when you mix Twilio‘s awesome telephony API, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk workforce on demand, and Recurly‘s dead simple subscription billing API?  A killer American accent training service – AccentTraining.net!  Here’s how it works:

  • A person, let’s call him Joe, wants to improve his or her American accent
  • Joe signs up on AccentTraining.net, and gets a free trial accent training lesson
  • Joe starts his lesson.  AccentTraining.net calls his phone, and has him record a couple of sentences that we pull from a recent newspaper article.
  • Once Joe is happy with his recording, we have 5 native US speakers listen to his recording, transcribe it, and rate his accent.- Here’s the cool part
  • Each US speaker also records himself/herself recording the same sentences, so Joe can compare his accent to to real native speakers speaking the same words

    Accent Rating

    Example accent rating, with recordings

  • Here’s another cool (and geeky) part – we have Twilio transcribe Joe’s recording, and each US speaker’s recording, so Joe can measure how well automated translation understands his american accent, vs. US speakers

    example rating transcription

    Example accent rating transcription

  • We notify Joe when the US speakers submit their ratings, and present him with the cornucopia of information mentioned above.
  • Here’s an example individual accent rating, and an example accent lesson.

Why start such a service?  Simple.  I am a huge geek, and wanted to see if it could be done.  Ok, that’s not the real reason, but I did enjoy the challenge.

The real reason arose when a good friend, who grew up in India, and I were talking about business ideas awhile back.  He wanted to a startup to help Indian students get accepted to US colleges, and the conversation meandered into a discussion of how poor many students’ American accents were.  Fresh off of building a website usability testing service based on Mechanical Turk (EasyUsability.com), the thought popped in my head that an accent rating and training service was a perfect use of the turk.   Who better than everyday American residents to help people with their American accents?

Now you’re probably muttering to yourself, “that’s mildly interesting, but who’s going to pay money for this?”   Great question.  I am not exactly sure yet, but here are my initial thoughts:

  • students wanting to get into US colleges
  • students at US colleges who want to get a job here
  • Foreign born people in the US who want to do better at work, school, whatever
  • Workers on outsourcing services like elance.com, oDesk.com, etc.
  • People visiting the US on vacation
  • the ~600,000 Indian or Philippine residents who work in call centers serving US markets

So who knows where it will go from here, but we’ll see.  Stay tuned for more posts on how things go!

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