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California launches first U.S. visually assisted speech-to-speech relay phone service

In May the Public Utilities Commission began providing a service that enables callers with speech disabilities to interact with communication assistants using webcam or videophone with Skype. The communication assistant understands the caller better by seeing mouth movements, facial expression and gestures. According to Fred Nisen, DRC attorney, who beta-tested the service, "The person making the call has much more independence and creativity in expression, with the confidence that it is now easier for the communication assistant to grasp the messages and re-voice them to the person receiving the call."

Read a short interview with Fred about how the system works.

Read descriptions of the system and what you need to know to get started.