Vodafone Selects SpeechWorks and Brand & Grober Communications to Power Speech-Enabled Application for the Visually Impaired.
BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 10, 2003
Blind and Low-Vision Customers Can Now Effortlessly Access SMS, Email and Phone Directory Services on the Nokia Communicator
SpeechWorks International, Inc. (Nasdaq: SPWX), a global leader in speech technologies and services, today 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 & Grober Communications GbR and combines SpeechWorks' ETI-Eloquence(TM) text-to-speech (TTS) software and Brand & Grober'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 & Grober 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 and has been widely recognized for its high intelligibility and accuracy. ETI-Eloquence is a powerful, versatile and efficient TTS engine that supports 13 languages. Its low memory requirements are ideal 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."
Increasing Information Access for Visually Impaired Users
Around the world, SpeechWorks technologies are powering applications for the visually impaired used by organizations such as Canadian National Institute for the Blind, CIBC Bank, HIMS Korea, The National Federation of the Blind, Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped and Visuaide. Using SpeechWorks' speech recognition and TTS software, visually impaired users can easily access information and complete transactions on a variety of wireless and wireline devices including cell phones, desktop computers, PDAs and ATMs.
About Vodafone UK
Vodafone UK has 13 million customers, the largest share of the corporate mobile communications market and is part of the world's largest mobile community. The Newbury-based company offers a wide range of mobile voice and data communications. The Vodafone UK network covers 99% of the population and transmits over 10 million text messages every day. Vodafone UK was the world's first mobile operator to introduce international roaming, and currently offers its customers roaming on 331 networks in 141 countries.
In May 2002, Vodafone UK was ranked top for customer satisfaction in the UK's pre-pay mobile phone sector in a survey by JD Power and Associates. In the Oftel Mobile Network Operators Call Success Rate Survey for April to September 2002, a national call completion rate of 98.3% gave Vodafone the highest number of successfully completed calls and lowest number of dropped calls of all four networks.
The Vodafone Speaking Phone is currently GBP499.99 and available from selected Vodafone Stores and Royal National Institute of the Blind Resource Centre. Alternatively call Vodafone on 0800 10 11 12 or RNIB Customer Services on 0845 766 99 99.
About Brand & Grober GbR
Brand & Grober Communications GbR is a privately-held company, which developed the TALKS software, the world's first screen reader to turn off-the- shelf mobile phones into talking devices. The Germany-based company was founded in 2001 to combine development of accessible user interfaces with state-of-the-art mobile technology. For more information, visit http://www.bugcom.de.
Organizations around the world trust SpeechWorks to manage their customer conversations. As a leading provider of speech technologies and services, SpeechWorks helps companies create and implement unique Speech Strategies that ensure maximum financial return and the highest levels of caller satisfaction. The Company provides speech recognition, text-to-speech (TTS) and speaker verification for network and embedded environments, including new multimodal devices with both an audio interface and visual display. SpeechWorks' customers include carriers, corporations and government organizations such as Amtrak, Credit Lyonnais, Deutsche Telekom, Microsoft and TD Waterhouse Australia. For more information, please call 617.428.4444 or visit www.speechworks.com.
ETI-Eloquence is a trademark of SpeechWorks International, Inc. in the United States and other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.