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Google Voice Makes Visual Voicemail a Reality for Deaf

August 5 2009 | by

Google Voice, a new service that creates a single phone number and inbox for managing all of your phones and voicemail, provide a myriad of alternative ways to use and control the phone. Available by invite only, Google Voice is looking to be a very useful application for people with a wide range of disabilities once it launches to the public.

Google Voice provides users with a new, unique phone number. That number will be their public number to put on business cards and public document, and can be associated with numerous existing numbers, like a landline and cell phone.

With Google Voice, all SMS and voicemail messages are delivered to your inbox. You can selectively filter calls to view voicemail only, SMS only, calls placed, received, or missed. The app is also building on speech-recognition technology to transcribe voicemail into text.

That’s right: people with hearing disabilities will benefit from Google’s attempt at visual voicemail, which is based on Googles transcription technology that it has been building for a few years now, mostly from the sample voices it has been acquiring from its 1-800-GOOG-411 service. The 411 service, along with Google Voice, will help the company adapt to an infinite variety of accents, dialects and possibly languages. The use of crowd-sourced transcription technology will help Google Voice become an even stronger application around the world.

With visual voicemail, audio is transcribed and color-coded to show Google’s confidence that the words are accurate. If “meet me at six” gets written as “meaty sticks”, users can correct the message.

The coolest part about voicemail transcription is that it’s searchable, allowing you to dig up a voicemail in Google Voice the same way you can find an old email in Gmail. In fact, if you tell Google Voice to send you an email when you get new voicemail, the transcription is included, meaning that your voicemail actually will be searchable from Gmail.

Another great feature: Calls can be recorded to voice mail and be listened to live, then be ignored or answered at your discretion. This could help people with physical disabilities who want to limit their phone use, and for those with hearing or cognitive disabilities who prefer to identify the context of a call before answering. Google Voice will also let you block unwanted callers to your GV number.

While Google Voice is currently available by invite only, the company recently bought one million phone numbers, which signals that Google Voice will be launching soon to the public.

A head’s up: If you have Google Voice already on your iPhone it may end up defunct. Last week, Apple rejected the $3 application from its app store, earning Apple the ire of the Federal Communications Commission. Pundits say that Apple may be getting ready to develop an in-house app similar to Google Voice. In the meantime, you can use it on your BlackBerry or other phone.

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