Roger that: phone conversations for deaf people


“For most people, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.” – Mary Pat Radabaugh

Have you ever imagined how it would be to have a telephone conversation with a deaf person? To me questions come to mind as: is it even possible to have a telephone conversation with a deaf person, how would we communicate and what are the possibilities for ‘calling’ a deaf person?

Well, I can tell you that there are not many possibilities for calling a deaf person. The most common solution is using a third party (like KPN Teletolk) who either types out the spoken text or uses a sign language interpreter to convert the spoken text into video. While both are indeed solutions, neither is effective, since they always require a third party and are not real-time.

So there are no possibilities for deaf people to have a real-time telephone conversation?

Guess again. There is a new start-up in town called RogerVoice, they developed an app which lets deaf people read what their correspondents say by sending instant live text transcriptions. The only thing that has to be done is install the app on a mobile device and run it while making a call, the beauty about is that only the audient disabled person has to install the app.

How does it work?

The technique behind RogerVoice is not new or innovative though. What they did is integrate automatic speech recognition into a VoIP platform, the latter already used by Skype and Viber, enabling them to convert speech to text within 100 milliseconds and eliminating the third party. Besides, the delay of 100 milliseconds is so minimal that the conversation is experienced as real-life. Regarding the profitability, -there are relatively not many deaf people worldwide, making it more a niche than mass targeted tool, the app is also very useful for people with hearing loss. Combining the two categories leads to a worldwide target market of approximately 360 million people, which then make me believe that the tool indeed has potential.

Having that said, my question to all is: what do you think about this application -is there market potential for this start-up, will this speech-to-text application result in a breakthrough in the telecom industry, or do think that there are other (more promising) industries in which the tool can be implemented?



One response to “Roger that: phone conversations for deaf people”

  1. 347216am says :

    Interesting topic and thanks for the post! I always find it really fascinating when technology changes people’s lives and significantly increases value of certain things. I am especially thrilled when technology improves the lives of people who have a physical or mental handicap. Personally I hadn’t even considered the fact that deaf people weren’t able to have some sort of direct long distance communication. I expected that they would simply text back whenever someone would text them and that you would basically have a dialogue trough a chat messenger on your phone. So I can’t help but wonder how much additional value the speech to text app is exactly going to produce for deaf people compared to a ‘normal’ phone chat dialogue. It is probably going to produce somewhat faster dialogues but it’s not going to be life changing attribute. As you mentioned, speech to text software isn’t extremely new anymore. There are applications that allow you to store notes on text you made by speech such as Dragon Dictation, Evernote, Voiceassistant and even Iphones Siri. Theses allow you to send the created text to someone via Facebook, Twitter or just plain mail. But the majority of these apps also don’t specifically help the people that actually need it.

    I think the people you can truly help with speech to text messenger applications are the people that aren’t able to type, not the ones who are deaf but still can type. I am thinking about people who have a physical or mental handicap which doesn’t allow them to text or make mails. People who have paralyze, RSI, neural damages, physical deformities or any kind of injury that doesn’t allow them to communicate digitally. I am thinking about the soldiers who lost their hands in combat and can’t type their resume for a job application. These people also have to send mails, apply for job and use the online DigID to make things happen. To these people such an application is truly life enabling instead of just a faster way to talk to each other. I think it would make more sense to target these types of market group.

    With regards,
    Anton Meeusen

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