New App Might Solve America’s Most Common Phobia

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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A team of five university students created a new app called Ummo that is designed to coach users on public speaking.

Public speaking is America’s most common phobia, with a poll showing 25.3 percent of respondents have severe aversion to speaking in front of an audience, according to the Washington Post. This new app was created to assuage this fear by employing the most up-to-date voice and speech technology and “building a personalized speech coach that helps you become an effective communicator.”

The new technology logs speech in a transcript, then detects moments of pause and instances where words such as “like” are used too often. The app even tracks the usage of onomatopoeic words like “um” and “ah.” Once the speech is completed, the app provides the user with critical data, such as deciphering total word count, which words were reused and how often, and if volume level was steady.

The app’s vision is to create “additional use cases for Ummo, particularly with hardware and wearable integrations” like “a clip-on mic or necklace that seamlessly and continuously analyzes your speech over the course of an entire day, providing real-time feedback via your Apple Watch,” according to Ummo’s website.

Andrea Coravos, Harvard business student and founding member of the app, described it as a “FitBit for speech fitness” in an email to Slate.

The startup is still in its early stages, as some defects were noted by journalist Kit Eaton in the New York Times Thursday. “Sometimes Ummo misunderstands the words that were said (though admittedly this American-made app may have had an issue with my British accent),” Eaton stated. The technology also does not track differences between multiple practices. Eaton concedes “Ummo is easy to use. It costs $2 and is available only on iOS.”

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Eric Lieberman