I always have my eye out for news related to public speaking, and the other day something truly unique came to my attention. It’s called Orai, and it’s a mobile app designed to help you be a better speaker. Currently, it’s only available for iOS.
I was instantly both curious and skeptical. What could an automated app do to help you speak? Truthfully, the answer is: not much. There’s only so much an algorithm can tell you. However, this app does provide some clever benefits.
How Orai analyzes your speaking
The app presents you with a variety of “challenges”, such as a challenge to introduce yourself for 60 seconds, or a tongue twister. It records you speaking, and after you’re done, gives you some information about your speech.
It records how many filler words you used (along with which ones), how clear your speaking was (enunciation), how fast/slow you went, and whether you had enough vocal variation.
In addition to these statistics, the app provides a transcript of what you said. You can play back the recording of your speech, and you can press on any word of the transcript to jump to that part of the recording. That feature alone is very helpful if you want to quickly find a spot in your speech that you’d like to play back.
Does Orai work well?
The app feels pretty polished, and I encountered no obvious problems with it while using it.
However, it’s not perfect. The enunciation metric is limited by the app’s ability to understand you via speech to text. If the phone isn’t close to your mouth, it’ll be difficult for Orai to understand you. It also might miss filler words.
While the pace metric seems accurate, the advice the app gives is not always good. For example, the app told me I was speaking too slowly at one point (I was just giving a rather dramatic speech with plenty of pauses).
The vocal variation metric seemed to work very well. When I spoke in one tone of voice, it warned me that I should vary my tone more. When I spoke more dynamically, it picked that up and congratulated me.
As a public speaking coach, I’d say the advice it gives is a 8/10 for beginners.
Does this replace formal coaching?
Vocal variation, filler words, enunciation, and pace are a great start. But what about hand motions, word choice, emphasis, and other aspects of speaking? The app knows you vary your tone of voice, but it doesn’t know if you did it at the right time. It knows you spoke a bit too slow, but it doesn’t realize you did that for effect. In short: it’s a guideline, not a rule book.
Still, I think this is a useful tool. I may use it to record all the speeches I write, so that I have a record to go back to.
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