SoftBridge in action: the first Deaf telephony pilot
Tucker, William David
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Following on several partial prototypes, we built an automated Deaf Telephony bridging application with the SoftBridge platform. The SoftBridge performs multi-modal bridging in real-time using Text-to-Speech (TTS) and Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) utilities accessed via web services. To perform Action Research with the Deaf community in Cape Town, we invited a Deaf user (DU) to participate in a pilot study. We conducted three tests varying the input/output modalities of the hearing user (HU). The DU had a standard text in/text out Instant Messaging client. The HU client used the following specific modality combinations: Text & TTS in/Text out, TTS in/Text out and TTS in/Text & ASR out. The SoftBridge logged the conversations for subsequent analysis. The trial showed a largely successful conversation. Success factors include a) a text and computer literate DU who is familiar with research practise, b) using the system to explain the research as we conducted it and c) that the multi-modal bridging capabilities overcame the expected shortcomings of TTS and especially ASR. The lessons learned from this trial will be applied to the next trial once the necessary modifications have been implemented.