Dimitri Kanevsky has been researching the use of speech-recognition technology as an aid for people who are deaf or hard of hearing for more than three decades—for many years at IBM, and, since 2014, at Google. So when I met him at a recent Google event focused on the company’s accessibility efforts, I asked if he ever dreamed back in the 1980s that technology would ever get as good at understanding spoken words as it is in 2019.

“No, I expected it would become so good in five years,” he responded. “And after five years, in the next five years. And then the next five years.” It was only when he joined Google that the tech achieved the accuracy that he once thought would come fairly quickly.

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