Wisconsin Relay Service Tests Voice Recognition

Wisconsin Relay Service Tests Voice Recognition

November 2001

We’ve been hearing that voice recognition technology might be the “next big thing” for people with hearing loss for a long time. It seems it’s always just a year or two away from being ready for prime time. It looks like it may have finally arrived! The Wisconsin Relay Service is going to start using Voice Recognition to speed its relay calls. The technology is part of an Ultratec product called Fastran.

One of the problems with traditional relay is that it is slow. People talk at 150 to 200 words a minute, but a skilled typist can only type about 60 words a minute. So it takes considerably longer for the Communications Assistant (CA) to type the spoken message than it took for the hearing person to say it. Voice recognition offers the possibility of having the typed text nearly keep up with the spoken message.

Because the voice recognition software must be trained on the voice of each speaker, it can’t “listen” to the hearing person and convert that speech to text. Instead, the software is trained on the voice of the CA, who repeats what the hearing person says into the voice recognition system, which converts it to text that is sent to the TTY.

I’ll be anxious to hear what people think of this new service. So if you live in Wisconsin, please watch for it and let us know how it works!