STT Gives a New Voice to TTD

Sprint yesterday released the newest addition to its Relay services. The company’s WebCapTel, a free, Web-based service, gives deaf or hard-of-hearing users the ability to read transcripts of telephone conversations, while still giving them the option of speaking to the person on the other end. WebCapTel provides the transcripts through the Web, and works on both PCs and mobile phones.
 
The new product uses speech-to-text translation services from Ultratec. Mike Ellis, national sales manager at Sprint Relay, says the service had to be accurate and fast – two priorities for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. The program currently boasts accuracy levels between 95 and 98 percent, with a speed of 140 to 150 words per minute.
 
The product launch comes after Sprint’s success with its traditional Relay service, which gave users the ability to speak with someone over the phone through the aide of a live operator. To use the service, a caller connects to Relay’s service either through a toll-free number or through a computer, typing out phrases that were then spoken by the operator to the recipient on the other line. Over the years, Relay added other services for its deaf customers, including a video relay service and a conference call captioning program.
 
WebCapTel is, according to Ellis, being targeted to a younger age demographic.
 
"Many kids in school have hearing loss because of headphones, iPods, and all those devices that can really do damage to the ears," Ellis states. "WebCapTel is definitely catering to the younger generation because research shows that people over the age of 55 do not have as much access to the Web [as younger people]."
 
Also boosting the product’s popularity with younger generations is WebCapTel’s availability to work with mobile phone Web browsers. Though the text transcript product is now available via mobile phone, Ellis says Sprint hopes to launch its video relay services in the cell phone market in coming years as well.
 
While the U.S. deaf population is about 2 million, the hard-of-hearing represent about 26 million people. And, as more baby boomers develop hearing loss due to old age, the adaptive technologies market—which relies on a lot speech technologies—is expected to grow.

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