News : Italian Pedius Helps Deaf People Make Phone Calls
Trieste, Italy, Jan 13, 2016 -- Even in the age of instant messaging, the classic phone call is still king in customer service. While platforms like chats and SMS can work fine with friends, most contact with businesses is still conducted over the phone. More importantly, it is the model that call centers use for interacting with customers, making it essential for many of the less frequent yet often critical communications that people have with companies.
For most folks, this remains a relatively convenient way to get things done, and helps the service provider engage with their customers on a more personal level.
There is one group though for whom this model continues to pose a significant challenge to getting even some of the most basic tasks done: the estimated 70 million deaf people and others with hearing impairments.
Call centers are unlikely to make the necessary changes any time soon as doing so can entail costly integrations of systems, and including a TTY machine and operator is generally not a viable option.
In looking to find workable solutions for this problem, an Italian company called Pedius based out of Espoo in Finland may have found an answer with their newest app, which is available on Android and iOS.
Founded in late 2013 by CEO Lorenzo Di Ciaccio, CTO Stefano La Cesa, and their Lead Developer Alessandro Gaeta, Di Ciaccio tells Geektime that the idea for the app came when his deaf friend Gabriele was in an accident. Gabriele could not call for an ambulance or a tow truck since neither were equipped to help the deaf.
Pedius is a voice-to-text and text-to-voice service that is fully automated, negating the need to have human interpreters in place to facilitate communication for the hearing impaired community. When a deaf person uses the app to make a call, they are able to write out their message, and the person on the other end will hear it via a spoken voice message. When they receive the call, the hearing person will first be played a message explaining that "This call is made via Pedius, a phone service for deaf people," explaining the computerized voice. Conversely, when a call comes in, the user will see the call come up as text.
When a call center receives the call from a Pedius user, it is directed to an employee that has been trained on how to work with the system and the deaf community. They say that this is ideal for companies since they do not need to bring in expensive equipment in order to serve their customers.
That said, she noted that she was worried that some people might hang up on her after hearing the recorded message. She also took issue with the app identifying that the app was for deaf folks, saying that, "It’s a bit too much personal information in a way. I don’t need the tow truck guy or the restaurant or whatever to know my whole life story."
One of the concerns that has come up is over the app’s ability to recognize speech accurately. For the time being, their current version does this pretty well. This should be even less of an issue when it comes to working with the call centers since the person on the end of the line will already be used to many of the mistakes that could occur, although most of the issues will be on the voice-to-text side, if at all.
Pedius is only active in a limited number of countries — including the U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland, Italy, France, Spain, Australia and New Zealand — but are likely to expand to more as they grow.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Pedius is a communication system helping Deaf and Hard of Hearing people to make phone calls, using voice recognition and speech synthesis technologies
Published: Thursday, January 14, 2016