SVOX, a start-up software company, says its speech synthesis software is being used to make mobile phones easier to use for senior citizens and the visually impaired.
Mobile phones have mainly been targeted at the young, neglecting a group of users that often has difficulties with the tiny screens and buttons on today’s wireless phones.
Now SVOX’s voice synthesis software can read out loud the numbers or character entered on the keypad, including the menu options and all the information appearing on the display.
Emails, text messages and MMS (multimedia messaging service) can be sent and received or listened to using its speech technology.
"Senior citizens also want to be mobile and secure, and live an independent life. In spite of this, they are undoubtedly one of the groups that is often ignored but has the highest disposable income," commented Alex Fries, chief marketing officer at SVOX.
Recent market studies have established that there is a greater need for mobile communication devices among senior people.
According to SVOX, the British market research company Visiongain, in its study "Wireless for Seniors 2004", estimates that the revenues created by the seniors market will rise from €4.7 billion in western Europe in 2003 to €17.7 billion in 2008.
The application is called Mobile Senior. It is available on phones running the Symbian Series 60 operating systems used in a number of Nokia phones and Siemens SX1 systems.
It makes all the mobile phone functions available audibly, in multiple languages, such as German, English, Spanish, French and Italian languages.
Comparable solutions have so far only been offered by NTT DoCoMo in Japan, where they exceeded the volume of 3G/UMTS services by almost 70 per cent, said SVOX.
Venture capital-backed SVOX was founded in April 2000 as a spin-off of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. Its core product is text-to-speech software.
by Valerie Thompson
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