With TTS, Tim Speaks to the Blind

Loquendo and software developer Code Factory are powering a free mobile phone text-to-speech (TTS) screen reader and a screen magnifier for the visually impaired for TIM mobile phones, the companies announced yesterday.

TIM Mobile Speak and TIM Mobile Magnifier are accessible service solutions that convert information displayed on mobile phone handsets into synthesized speech via Loquendo's TTS technology and rout it through the device's speaker or headset.

“The benefit is very immediate to understand: Everything which appears on the screen is read out loud by the text-to-speech,” says Paolo Coppo, vice president of marketing and business development at Loquendo.  “For example…it’s very easy for you to listen to a text message…but also while you’re typing your text message, you hear the feedback.”

Screen content can also be converted to Braille if the mobile phone is connected to a Braille device with a refreshable Braille display. Both speech and Braille output can be used concurrently or independently to power a full range of mobile phone functions that include:

•    Making and receiving calls;
•    Managing contacts and call lists;
•    Checking caller ID;
•    Composing and reading text and multimedia messages and email;
•    Browsing the Internet
•    Scheduling and managing appointments and tasks;
•    Listening to media files or Internet audio streams;
•    Configuring phone settings, profiles, ringtones, speed dial keys and voice tags;
•    Accessing other programs like calculator, instant messenger, and file system browser; and
•    Sharing data between mobile phones and computers.

In launching TIM Mobile Speak and TIM Mobile Magnifier, Loquendo and Code Factory worked closely with Telecom Italia and the Italian Union for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

According to Coppo, Telecom Italia has launched similar initiatives in the past—previously using technology from Nuance Communications—but this year decided to work with Loquendo and Code Factory.

“The reasons for the switch were, on one side, the voice quality…” he says.  “And then the other issue [was] the more complete offer of features from Code Factory.”

In a statement, Tommaso Daniele, national chairman of the Italian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired, said: "Until a few years ago, the mere idea of an accessible mobile phone was a dream. Nowadays, not only do such products exist, they work well.  Breaking through the inaccessibility barrier for mobile phones is a major step forward in the independence of the blind and visually impaired, and a step forward for equal opportunities too."

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