September 21, 2000
Ultratec Announces New "Instant Captioning" Technology
Will provide live captions for people who have difficulty hearing during personal conversations, for professionals in business meetings, or for students in lectures
MADISON, WI -- Ultratec, Inc., has announced a new technology, currently undergoing consumer testing, which will enable people to receive live captions of what is being said during their conversations and interactions with others. The new technology, called Instant Captioning™, will provide the user with a written transcription of everything the other person in the conversation says.
Instant Captioning is expected to provide clarity in interpersonal communications for people with hearing loss, by providing virtually real-time written text to accompany the spoken words. If the user has difficulty hearing what is said, he will be able to read the captions for clarification. Professionals, too, can use the service in meetings to take notes. Students using the service can benefit from having a printout of the lecture they are attending.
The new Instant Captioning service is designed to work with a variety of devices, such as laptop or notebook computers, cellular phones with alphanumeric display screens or small hand-held instant captioning devices. The captions are displayed on the device's built-in screen so the user can read the words while listening to what is spoken by the other party. Access to the captioning service is done via a cellular connection or a standard telephone line.
Although this service can be used by anyone, it is expected to be particularly useful to persons who have moderate to severe hearing loss or who are deaf, allowing them to participate in conversations and other voice-based communication in a functionally equivalent way.
To get captions, the user simply presses a key on the Instant Captioning device which dials the captioning service center. A specially-trained operator, or captionist, at the service center listens to the conversation through the Instant Captioning device's built-in microphone. The operator transcribes everything that the other party says into text, using extremely powerful, customized voice recognition technology. The text is then transmitted back to the user's Instant Captioning device over the same telephone connection, appearing in the form of written text on the device's screen. The transcription occurs at virtually real-time speed, enabling the written text to appear on the user's screen very closely to the speed at which it is spoken.
"Sometimes people with hearing loss 'make do' by lip-reading or just plain guessing at what is being said, often having to ask questions or have people repeat themselves. With Instant Captioning, users participate fully in the conversation." explains Robert Engelke, President of Ultratec. "For people who rely on stenographers or interpreters, there are often difficulties with scheduling, availability, costs and minimum time requirements. Instant Captioning is a convenient and cost effective alternative, which is available on a moment's notice."
Ultratec will demonstrate its new Instant Captioning technology over the next several weeks in North America and in Great Britain.
Instant Captioning is the latest in a series of new technologies announced by Ultratec that enable real-time captioning in situations that were never before possible or were cost prohibitive. Recently, Ultratec announced development of a Captioned Telephone™, which will provide live captions during telephone conversations. This technology is also expected to become available early in 2001.