Thursday, February 15, 2007

Unintended innovation becomes assistive technology

Every now and then, a product comes along that has an unintended feature that makes it a useful piece of assistive technology. Such is the case of two voicemail management programs.

The original pitch of these two products is to make getting access to one’s cell phone’s voicemail easier to manage without burning up precious minutes of your calling plan. If you’ve ever experienced the prolonged messages that begin most cell phone voicemail programs, they seem to take forever before allowing you to respond by pushing your desired action to retreive messages. Then, some programs also make you listen to the entire length of each voicemail message before allowing you to decide to keep or delete each one. All of these tasks take away some of those precious minutes of your call plan, which is what both
Are initially targeting in their offered services.

However, when you understand what they are offering is voice-to-text transcription service for voicemail messages that are then sent to the user as either an email or a text message which can be read on the subscriber’s mobile phone or PDA, it seems clear that this might very well be useful to people who are deaf.

The primary difference in what the two companies are offering is price-- Spinbox is free and Simulscribe costs$10 monthly for 40 messages. However, the idea is an innovative way to quickly get audio messages to people who wouldn’t otherwise hear them.

To read a more in-depth review of these two offerings, check out the article in today’s
New York Times.
(The Times requires on-line readers to register, but it is free.)

Some informational notes from that article:

“SimulScribe is available right now. It costs $10 a month, which covers 40 messages; each additional transcription costs 25 cents. This can become very expensive if you get a lot of messages. The company plans to offer better deals for frequent phoners — including an unlimited plan — in the coming months.”

“SpinVox, on the other hand, has been operating in Britain for some time. It will be free during its year of testing in the United States. To sign up for the free year, send an e-mail inquiry to (Ignore the “seven-day trial” offered at; that’s just for British customers.) Eventually — in the second half of this year, SpinVox says — the service will be available in the United States only through cellular carriers; pricing hasn’t been set. That’s right: you’ll be able to spend more money with your carrier to spend less time on its voice mail system.”

“When you sign up for either service, an e-mail message gives you instructions for reprogramming your phone. For most carriers, that involves dialing a string of numbers with * and # characters; for Sprint, you have to call customer service. Either way, this process reroutes incoming messages to the SpinVox or SimulScribe service. (Until you re-record the greeting, callers hear a generic “Welcome to SimulScribe” or “Welcome to SpinVox” message.)”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can def see how useful that this type of service is to the deaf. I have looked at both of these companies for a while now trying to decide which one to choose, and well I use spinvox...because they are smart to give it away for free. Ive got to admit i am hooked. I love this stuff. Spinvox's conversions are amazingly accurate and they convert long voicemails too. They also have a very cool speak a blog and speak a note service. Great blog love the post...