Vodafone Selects SpeechWorks and Brand & Grober Communications

BOSTON, MA - SpeechWorks International Inc. (Nasdaq: SPWX), a developer of speech technologies and services, announced that Vodafone UK is now offering a new application for its visually impaired customers using SpeechWorks technology. The speech-enabled application provides audible cues to access numerous advanced communications services including Short Message Service (SMS), email and phone directories on the Nokia 9200 and 9290 Series Communicator. It was developed in partnership with Brand & Gröber Communications GbR and combines SpeechWorks' ETI-Eloquence text-to-speech (TTS) software and Brand & Gröber's TALKS accessibility application. Vodafone UK is currently selling the Nokia 9210i Communicator units branded as the Vodafone Speaking Phone to its blind and low-vision customers. The World Health Organization (2001) estimates that 180 million people worldwide have vision impairments. Of these, between 40 million and 45 million are blind. Without speech-enabled devices, many of these individuals are not able to use advanced communications features such as determining what calls have been received, sending or receiving text messages, defining special ringtones, checking battery status and receiving network information. "The blind and low-vision community represents an important and growing audience for mobile devices and we are eager to provide them with a state-of-the-art mobile phone that offers messaging, email, fax sending and word processing," said Mike Duxbury, Disability Access Manager for Vodafone UK. "High intelligibility and accuracy are key criteria for a successful solution because we strive to offer a satisfying caller experience to all of our customers. We're very excited about offering our blind and low-vision customers this new service and are confident in the solution's trusted technology from Brand & Gröber and SpeechWorks." The TALKS applications combined with SpeechWorks' ETI-Eloquence TTS software converts menus and instructions displayed on the Nokia Communicator's screen into speech for output either to the phone's internal speaker or through an attached headset. ETI-Eloquence software is already used in many products for blind and low-vision users. ETI-Eloquence is a TTS engine that supports 13 languages. Its low memory requirements are suited for embedded devices such as mobile phones and other hand-held devices. Using the Vodafone Speaking Phone, blind and low vision users are able to:
-Write and read SMS and email;
- Send fax messages;
- Manage contact information;
- Dial phone numbers from contacts;
- Access call logs (dialed, received, missed);
- Use the appointment calendar;
- Customize phone settings according to personal preferences;
- Write and read "stickie" notes;
- Have application menus and window contents read aloud; and
- Press keys to hear the current date and time, the network signal strength, or the battery strength. "In order for this solution to help the visually impaired perform these various functions, the TTS system has to be highly intelligible. ETI-Eloquence synthesizes ordinary text into high quality speech," said Alan Schwartz, vice president of business development and head of the Automotive and Mobile Device Customer Focus Unit at SpeechWorks. "In addition, the Vodafone Speaking Phone allows blind and low vision users to control the rate and speed of the speech output for dynamic, detailed and personalized information, creating a much more satisfying user experience."
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