30 August 2011

Technology can improve the outcome of virtual meetings

It can be difficult for the hearing impaired to keep up in video conferences and larger meetings. The answer could be a speech-to-text reporter.

In many larger companies, video conferences are becoming more and more popular, as they are a quick and simple way of communicating face-to-face, even though the participants are in different locations.

Video conferences can be a challenge for many hearing impaired people, as many are dependent on lip reading as a way of achieving a better understanding. Video conferences make it difficult to use this ability, as interference can sometimes occur as a result of a bad signal, leading to unclear pictures or a delay in pictures and sound.

A technological solution

A possible solution to this problem is a so-called speech-to-text reporter (STTR). The reporter listens to the video conference and converts speech into text. It is a form of subtitling which is displayed on a secure website. The hearing impaired person sits with a computer in front of them, and when the meeting starts, the person involved can read the subtitles via the secure website.
The STTR uses a special keyboard which processes words phonetically, that is, how they sound rather than how they are spelt. This means that the STTR can write up to 200 words per minute, which gives the reader a translation of what is being said.

The technology can also be used in other instances, for example in conferences. Here, the text can be shown on a large screen, so that everyone can follow what is being said. The STTR is a way of ensuring that even the hearing impaired have full access to large meetings and conferences.

Source: One in seven, Issue 81

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