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18th January 2000

Royal National Institute for the Blind tests Vocalis SpeechMail system

The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) is currently conducting a pilot of SpeechMail, the service developed by Vocalis, the international speech technologies group, which makes it possible for people to have their emails read out to them from any telephone.

SpeechMail is already being widely used by many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the UK and elsewhere. Users simply dial a specified number and enter an account number and PIN. The emails are converted into speech using text-to-speech (TTS) technology. Once users have accessed their mailbox, Vocalis's advanced speech recognition (ASR) technology is used to allow them to perform various actions through spoken commands, such as replaying messages, deleting them, skipping on to the next message, or replying.

RNIB is currently evaluating the effectiveness of SpeechMail among blind and partially sighted staff who are being encouraged to use the system to access their email messages. In the future RNIB hopes it may be able to introduce the system to customers with serious sight problems.

"There are over 1.7 million blind and partially sighted people in the UK who could potentially benefit from this system", said Tom Whittle, RNIB's Hi-tech Products Manager. "The system could also be of great benefit to those with low vision or failing sight. There are many good facilities, services and products for those who are experienced in computing and information systems but the advantage of this system is that it doesn't require any technical knowledge and is easy to use."

The RNIB is currently looking to go into partnership with an Internet Service Provider (ISP), in order to create an Internet service tailored to the needs of blind and partially sighted people. An important element in this will be the use of the other Vocalis product that exploits the powerful combination of ASR and TTS, SpeecHTML. SpeecHTML allows users to interrogate a Website for information and have the textual parts of the site read back to them over the telephone. They interact with the Website entirely through spoken commands.

"It is well established that speech technology has a great deal to offer people with various kinds of disability," said Mike Williams, Business Development Director for Vocalis. "For the visually impaired, techniques like ASR and TTS have been used for years to make written material more easily available, or the inputting and handling of computer data. SpeechMail and SpeecHTML add a new dimension to this, and we are delighted to be working with the RNIB, helping to open up the world of the Internet and email communications to people who otherwise would find such services difficult to use."

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About Vocalis

Vocalis works with organisations to create contact centre solutions that build the organisations business and brands. These solutions can turn your contact centre from a cost to a profit centre by ensuring it builds your brand, helps your business be more competitive, and increases customer loyalty through more effective and efficient service. Vocalis was formed in 1993, is publicly traded on FTSE Stock Market and has been listed since July 1996. Vocalis brings back the reassurance of the most personal human touch in business - putting voice to work.

The Vocalis Website is at

Email: [email protected]

For further Vocalis Group information, contact:

Philippa Buttle
Vocalis Group plc
Chaston House
Mill Court
Gt Shelford
Tel: 01223-846177
Fax: 01223-846178
Email:[email protected]

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Friday, November 28, 2003
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