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iPhone 4 and ZVRS Make Mobile Video Interpreting a Reality
Posted by Nataly Kelly on July 19, 2010  in the following blogs: Business Globalization, Best Practices, Interpreting, Technology
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Just as Steve Jobs begins to recover from "Antennagate," Apple fans in the language services industry have yet another reason to lust after the company's latest must-have gadget. ZVRS, a company that specializes in video relay services (VRS) for the deaf and hard of hearing, announced that it will soon launch a mobile video relay service that works with FaceTime to enable single-tap, face-to-face video interpreting.

Video interpreting has been around for many years. But, the ability for the average person to make a video call using a mobile device is a much more recent development. CNET predicted nearly two years ago that mobile video calling was about to go mainstream. But when -- if ever -- will mobile video interpreting make its way to the masses?

While we're definitely fans of making language services available across more diverse platforms in all possible output formats -- speech-based and visual language transfer included -- we're more skeptical about mobile video interpreting as a replacement technology for other segments of the remote interpreting marketplace, for a few reasons:
  • The consumer market for remote interpreting is tiny. Large-scale buyers of interpreting services would prefer to have interpreters in person, but that lacking, they'd rather communicate through a trusted provider of video remote interpreting with a secure connection than risk all communication being lost to one of AT&T's outages (which prompted competitor Verizon to gloat, "there's a map for that.")

  • The market for video interpreting is even tinier. The data we collected for our recent global language services market study and our report on the state of the interpreting marketplace revealed a growth in the video interpreting market. The growth was reflected in both an increased number of suppliers and the size of market opportunity. However, video interpreting is still just a fraction of the size of its older and bigger cousin, telephone interpreting. Even when they join forces, both forms of remote interpreting appear scrawny alongside the much heftier on-site interpreting market.

  • In two words? Screen size. For signed languages, being able to see movements clearly is an absolute must -- so, while the iPhone 4 and products with similarly sized screens would allow a hearing person to communicate with a deaf or hard of hearing individual, two-way communication for signed languages would not be very practical.  In other words, while video relay service is a reality for mobile devices, video remote interpreting would be a bit more difficult to manage.
Those caveats aside, we have to admit that the announcement from ZVRS is definitely worth noting. And, while the language services industry rarely produces the type of popcorn-worthy presentations notoriously delivered by Apple's CEO, ZVRS's Vice President of Sales, Tim Rarus, certainly presents the new technology with plenty of flair -- watch the video here.

Lastly, there's some good news in this announcement for a recently-bruised Apple. Individuals using sign language for video calls with the iPhone 4 will need to keep both hands free in order to communicate -- including their left one.


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Keywords: Interpreting, Interpreting technologies, Remote interpreting technologies, Telephone interpreting, Video interpreting

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