Lipread-able Phones Could Help Millions

Lipread-able Phones Could Help Millions

August 2004

Editor: This is the second time we’ve seen a story about a lipread-able phone. The one from a couple of years ago seems to have come to naught. This particular technology is being tested by RNID, the largest British charity for people with hearing loss, and the technology does look promising.

Now I have a question for you. Is the technology described in this article better for people with hearing loss than standard videoconferencing? We are seeing videoconferencing technology being installed all over the place, and it’s targeted towards people who sign. Several years ago, when this technology was just entering the mainstream, the promotional materials included references to assisting people who relied on their hearing by allowing them to lipread the other party. But that application seems to have gone by the wayside. It seems to me that there are lots of people who don’t currently do very well on the phone, but would do just fine if they could lipread the other person. Am I missing something here?

Here’s the story on the RNID lipread-able phone.

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RNID is helping to test a new invention for deaf and hard of hearing people – a phone you can lipread.

For millions of deaf and hard of hearing people, lipreading is essential to communication. Using the phone can be impossible, and as the population ages, this problem will increase.

RNID is working to develop a cutting edge technological solution. Synface, short for “Synthetic talking face”, provides a computer-generated talking face that recreates the speaker’s lip movements on a screen for the listener.

People should be able to use the system on mobiles and home phones within the next four to five years.

RNID has been running trials with hard of hearing people, and feedback to date has been extremely positive – nearly all (84%) testers state it helps them make phone calls.

Neil Thomas, Technology Development Manager from RNID says:

“Potentially, this innovation could help millions of people to use the telephone. This is crucial if we are to prevent the isolation faced by many deaf and hard of hearing people as they get older.”

To see how the technology might look, visithttp://www.rnid.org.uk/synface