Second thoughts on SpeechNotes

SpeechNotes, an app on my mobile, has now helped me to access several messages left on the answerphone. Unfortunately, though, the transcriptions have not always been very accurate. At best, the text conversion is patchy – for instance, it is very annoying when only part of a contact phone number or part of a name are transcribed. So my initial enthusiasm has now been downgraded to ‘3 out of 10’.

The main problem is that, inevitably, there are so many variables:

  1. how clearly the caller is speaking; the speaker needs to go quite slowly
  2. the technical quality of the recording on the answerphone being used; some machines may offer more clarity than my BT Décor 2500. (As I cannot hear it, I really do not know what it is like.)
  3. the need to synchronise opening the Speechnote app, pressing Play on the answerphone and then quickly pressing the mic icon on the app.
  4. the need to delete previous messages before starting – if you don’t, then they will be transcribed too and the new message (which you want) is likely to be off screen.

So, still not ‘out of the woods’ on this one. Ideally, a speech-to-text converter could be built into an answerphone, which could be accessed by your mobile and you would be given the option either to listen to or to read the message on screen. I can but dream.

Should I give up the answerphone altogether and just request folk to text me if they need to contact me? Please let me know what you would do.

Advertisements

SpeechNotes

Success! I have found a simple and reasonably accurate speech-to-text converter that I

SpeechNotes Icon

Speechnotes logo, from Google Play Store – with my thanks to Speechnotes and to Google Play

can use with my Android mobile phone (a Moto G5) to ‘read’ a message left on the landline answerphone. It’s called SpeechNotes, which is available from the Google Play Store. It’s free, with the option of upgrading to the premium version.

Here’s how I use it:

  1. Open SpeechNotes on the mobile
  2. Press ‘play’ on the answerphone and hold the mobile close so that the receiver faces the source of sound.
  3. When the recorded message has finished (or, at least, when I think it has!), turn the mobile screen so that I can read it. And there, my friends, are the words of the message.

To date, I have tried it only once, and it was a nuisance/marketing message of no importance in itself, but a breakthrough for me when I read these words on the mobile screen:

Message 10: UK major banks are offering start your claim now

I got the gist of the message, and that was the important thing. I ‘shared’ it to OneNote, so that I had a record, and then deleted the message on the answerphone. You can ‘share’ your notes by email, text message, or a notepad like OneNote.

Useful links: SpeechNotes on Google PlaySpeechnotes website

SpeechNotes was developed as an aid to dictating or writing notes. I have now tried its note-writing capability and can report that it is excellent and very accurate. (You just have to remember to speak the punctuation marks.)

In my view, this app has tremendous potential for speech-to-text conversion for anyone who is as deaf as I am. I hope you will find it useful too.

 

Help! I need a speech-to-text converter for an answerphone

The landline’s answerphone is flashing. I cannot retrieve the message because I cannot hear the words. Ah, well…will have to ask my son to come round and listen for me, or go and ask a neighbour to help. Just an everyanswerphone flashingday problem for deafened folk like me.

But surely there must be a technological way round this? If an answerphone message can be accessed remotely on a linked phone line, e.g. a mobile, then surely the words spoken could be converted into text and displayed on the screen of that mobile. That would solve the problem. Or is this but a dream?

So here is a challenge for web developers out there: to invent an app that could be downloaded on to a mobile phone and linked with the user’s landline. This dream app would be able to convert speech – any speech – to text. I could then read the words on the screen of my mobile. Job done.

But this dream speech-to-text converter could be useful to the wider community as well. If you are in a busy environment, it would be better to read the words of a voice message on screen rather than try to listen.

I suspect developers will say that the stumbling block is that speech-to-text converting software has to be trained to understand the voice of the user. But, of course, a message could be left by anyone, and all voices are different.

But surely there is a way round this problem?  I post in hope.

 

Success: I have an Android phone that works with NGTLite

NGT Lite open on Moto G5_annotatedI now have a Moto G5, with the Android operating system (v7, Nougat), which I am using with GiffGaff (a mobile network that in fact runs on the O2 network). The app and the phone work beautifully.

I have rung friends, rung family, and rung organisations. And it works! Folk who know me are taken quite by surprise, because they do not expect to hear my voice on a mobile.

It is quite amazing to be able to use a phone ‘almost’ normally. Liberation!

Hiatus

After a time of change beyond belief, I am only now returning to this blog that I set up so enthusiastically in January. My intention remains to share ways of coping with profound deafness and to explore the comparatively new Text Relay Service [Next Generation Text Service], which is delivered via the NGT Lite app.

But since those early days my life has changed. In February my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he died just four short weeks later. I nursed him at home until almost the end. I knew that I might need to call an ambulance. But using NGT Lite with a laptop can be a bit ‘clunky’ – for one thing, you have to boot up before you can start. This takes time, and it also means that it is difficult for other folk to ring me. The obvious solution was to get a mobile phone that was compatible with the app. Alas, it did not occur to me that my mobile network would cause insurmountable problems.

I got a small Android phone, downloaded the NGT Lite app and tried to set it up and tried to make a call. But it just would not work with my then network (Talk Mobile). After several web ‘chats’ with their Customer Service folk, it emerged that calls made via the app were blocked, because they needed an access code (18001 to call someone who is hearing, 18000 to call the emergency services) in front of the regular number. Their system classified these access codes as a premium service. I would therefore be expected to pay a premium rate. I queried this:

“What?” I said, “even to call an ambulance?”

“Yes, Jill,” I was told, and fobbed off with words to the effect that as it was a service ‘bought in’ the customer would be expected to pay to make any call via NGT. As far as they were concerned, that was that. I declined to pay a premium rate for phone calls of any kind and returned the phone to them.

My husband’s condition worsened by the day. When finally an ambulance was needed, a Hospicare nurse was in the house and made all the arrangements – he was admitted to a hospice, where he died just 30 hours later.

Now, nearly three months after his passing, I have changed network and have an Android phone that works. (Better late than never, one could say?) And it is my intention to make sure that all mobile networks that operate in the UK know about the Next Generation Text Service and offer it on equal terms as regular  ‘hearing’ use of a telephone. Calls made via the NGT Lite app should be part of the ‘inclusive minutes’ in a contract. I hope that might be my husband’s legacy so that no one else is ever told to pay a premium rate to call an ambulance.

Using NGT Lite with a laptop

It was easy to download the NGT Lite app to the laptop. ngt-lite-iconNo problems whatsoever. Then I had to ‘link’ our phone number with NGT. Didn’t get it right the first time but then, as is so often the way in life, it ‘all came right’: the NGT icon at the top of the screen turned from red to green. Hey – my number was linked. I could now use this wonderful new system.

ngt-lite_green-icon

NGT icon is green

The next thing was to tailor the app to my own liking, choosing colours and the size of the font. I eventually chose these colours:

my-ngt-preferences

NGT colour and text size preferences

It was now easier to read. And, on another screen, I marked how I would be using the app – in may case, Speaking and Reading:

ngt-lite-preferences

Options page for Text Relay

This makes it easier and quicker for the relay assistant who will be helping with the call.

I opened NGT Lite on the laptop and, tentatively, made my first call. I dialled the number on the cordless handset and pressed the receiver icon to ‘call’. The NGT icon glowed green, to indicate that I was connected to the service, and the computer screen showed progress:

NGT Ring   NGT Ring  NGT answered NGT call connected

I clicked ‘Join call’. I read ‘Hello’ on the screen and then spoke into the handset of the cordless phone. It was a strange sensation – I could not believe that the other person could hear me. But they did! The words ‘Gloria, here.’ flowed across the screen and, as if by magic, we were talking. It was rather strange, but really very easy.

As with all textphone use, you have to remember to say ‘Go ahead’ [GA] or ‘Over to you’ when you have finished your own input so that the operator knows to change mode.

So that was the first hurdle – I could use NGT Lite with my laptop. But could I get it to work with a mobile?

Using NGT Lite with a landline

There are corded landlines in this house, so the phones (which used to include my dear old Uniphone), are tethered to the wall. Yes, I know, having corded phones is yet another example of not moving with the times.

As I would be using NGT Lite with a laptop computer (or, possibly) a tablet, a corded

Panasonic KX-TG6811 handset

KX-TG6811

telephone was not going to be much good. So, I decided to get a cordless phone to use with NGT. I chose a Panasonic because the specs looked good and it is a reliable brand.  But attempting to set up the cordless phone was, for me, time-consuming, because I was not familiar with the jargon. Still, eventually managed it! And, you know, it is really quite easy after all.

Setting up this phone was a further reminder that I was ‘out of the loop’. For over 21 years I had been using a Uniphone (which I now see was very basic). For 13 years before that, I had had to ask someone to make a telephone call on my behalf, because there was no text relay service available. That must get me back to 1982 and the last regular telephone I could use – it had a dial (Yes, one of those!) and was mounted on the wall in the hall.

Well, in future, I am going to keep up with developments in telecommunications.

 

 

NGT Lite

NGT stands for Next Generation Text and it is the latest incarnation of dear old Typetalk, which dates from the 1990s. I started using TypeTalk in 1995. Later, Typetalk morphed into the Text Relay Service and now (unlike me!) it has moved with the times and is an app.

There is lots of information on the NGT website: http://ngts.org.uk/ and a wonderful NGT lady answered my emailed queries.

I discovered that NGT Lite can be used on a desktop computer, running Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux. It can be used on a tablet running iOS or android. But best of all, it can be used on a mobile phone running iOS or android

I viewed several informative videos on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH550p9RBdbdvQg0a4HL4cg

It really was a no-brainer: NGT Lite is the way to go.

.

Uniphone

uniphone1_resized-cropped

My old Uniphone 1150

I got a Uniphone 1150 textphone in the summer of 1995. Sadly, after over 21 years’ of use, it died on me the other Monday. I loved the Uniphone, which is ideal for a deaf/hearing household like mine – it functions as a textphone or as an ordinary voice telephone, so anyone can use it.

There is a small backlit screen on which I would read the caller’s words, typed at lightning speed by a Text Relay operator. Then I would press a couple of buttons to change to voice mode and speak directly to the caller. (My voice is OK.) Sure, a call made via the Text Relay Service takes a bit longer than an ordinary voice call. But the Uniphone with text relay gave me independence in telecommunications.

As you can see from the photo, the Uniphone is a corded landline phone, so has to be used near a phone socket – all rather old-fashioned in these days of cordless and mobiles.

So when the Uniphone died, I had to find out about a replacement – and discovered that

laptop cartoon character with face hands

My thanks to Classroom Clipart for this splendid fellow.

I was way behind the times. Very few dedicated text telephones like the Uniphone are now sold because the Text Relay Service can be delivered by a computer app. 

Time to catch up with the app….

 

 

But if you would like to find out more about a Uniphone, then check out this page at Connevans: http://www.connevans.co.uk/product/8171708/40TU1150/Uniphone-1150-textphone