[guispeak] interesting announcement

  • From: "Laura Eaves" <leaves1@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Multiple recipients of NFBnet GUI-TALK Mailing List" <gui-talk@xxxxxxxxxx>, "guispeak" <guispeak@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <gnomebrl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "w45" <blindwomen-over45-chat@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <program-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "blindprogramming" <Programming@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <nfb-talk@xxxxxxxxxx>, <cat-lst@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <blindmath@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 19 Nov 2004 22:47:55 -0500

Hi all --
I just got the following announcement that someone posted to the blind-l list and thought I'd pass it along.
I know some of you are deafblind and might be interested in getting more info.
Take care!

Te Globe and Mail, Toronto, Canada, Thursday, November
18, 2004 .....

ViaScribe brings words to the deaf

Globe and Mail

It may not be as glamorous as the Babelfish, writer Douglas Adams' fanciful
creation that translates everything a listener hears into his own language,
but IBM's ViaScribe is getting close to it.

In his science-fiction novel The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Mr.
Adams imagined a small fish which, when inserted into the ear canal, would
translate all the languages spoken in the universe.  ViaScribe is a software
product that comes close, and is getting closer to that miraculous fish.

The technology, unveiled in Toronto Thursday, is an extension of ViaVoice,
IBM's system of interpreting spoken words as commands for a computer.
ViaScribe translates the voice into text in real time, and moreover can be
combined with an audio recording of the voice, video and slides for a full
multimedia presentation.

The main purpose of the technology is to help deaf or hard-of-hearing people
to interact in real time with a group of people at seminars, classrooms,
presentations or tours or museums and such.

The next step, IBM said, is to run the text through a language system for
on-the-fly translation.

The primary platform for the technology, IBM said, would be handheld
computers, such as personal digital assistants, which would receive the text
as it is broadcast vie a wireless device.

The $1-million (U.S.) invested in the project went toward creating a system
that allows a speaker to talk naturally, without uttering punctuation marks,
and using an error-correction system.

Transcripts are then made instantly available, which helps eliminate taking
notes, and they can also be published on the Internet.  When finished, the
text can be edited, annotated, reviewed and marked, and users can search for
words throughout the product.

Though IBM is unveiling the software, Sara Basson, IBM's program manager for
accessibility services, said that it is not yet a mature product and is
currently in pilot projects at several universities - it's still a long way
from replacing stenographers.

"It's an evolutionary process," she said, "and stenography is the gold
standard we're going for."

ViaScribe was developed in conjunction with the University College of Cape
Breton's Alexander Graham Bell Institute, which adapted the technology for
the classroom, and with the Liberated Learning Initiative at Saint Mary's
University in Halifax.  So far, 10 universities in Canada, the United States
and Australia have tested the system.

Parks Canada, the government agency in charge of federal parks, will be the
first organization to deploy the system.  Deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors
to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, operated in Baddeck,
Cape Breton, by Parks Canada, will be able to tour the exhibits using

John Harker, president of the University College of Cape Breton, called
ViaScribe "nothing short of wondrous," and said it helps the Liberated
Learning Initiative in "setting pedagogy on a new footing."

Jim Watson, a Boston-based teacher of the deaf and a great-great-grandson of
Alexander Graham Bell, noted that his illustrious ancestor also thought of
himself first as a teacher of the deaf, in addition to his role as a
developer of the telephone.

Mr.  Watson said he believes Mr.  Bell "would have raved about all the
technological advances we have made today."

ViaScribe, he said, "will improve the quality of learning" among those with
hearing loss.

Ms.  Basson, who demonstrated the product, said ViaScribe has an accuracy of
90 to 95 per cent, a rate which improves when it is used in closed settings,
such as universities and museums.

When demonstrating it, she spoke slowly and distinctly as it printed out
everything she said. She blamed her New York Accent as the reason for having
to speak so carefully, but she added that "people with clearer speech would
be able to speak normally."

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