Mon. Oct 3rd, 2022

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BT’s new speech-to-text app should make phone calls more manageable

2 min read

Phone calls can be daunting, which is why some of us love to make other people book our dentist appointments (thanks mum). But calls pose a particularly tough challenge for deaf people and the hard of hearing. BT is hoping to make them easier with Relay UK.

Relay UK is a new app, and it’s essentially a re-branded, slightly improved version of the company’s old Next Generation Text service.

Through the service, callers will connect to a relay assistant who will act as a middle-person for the duration of the call. This assistant will convert speech to text, or text to speech, according to the user’s requirements.

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For context, this is unusual in a market filled with apps that rely on Voip (voice over internet protocol) technology. These apps use speech recognition systems to translate conversations into text. Using a machine rather than a real-life person to interpret and type means there are fewer delays, but it does run the risk of incorrect translations.

The Relay UK app comes with a few handy new tools. There’s an easy set up service that lets users link up their phone number and save their preferences. Users also now have the option of saving conversations, so they can look up important information discussed on the call. Useful for remembering both banking details and keeping receipts on gossip-filled conversations.

You can also now save ‘popular phrases’ to add into conversations, which means you can have stock answers for businesses requesting info like your address and date of birth, or when your relatives start bugging you about why you’re still single.

Despite a lot of people being phone-call-averse, the pesky things are still integral to a lot of services today. In a survey carried out for BT, 80% of the deaf community saw phone calls as vital tools for communication. The new app could help improve access to healthcare, employment, and finances.

The app is free, although you’ll still be charged the cost of a standard phone call when using it.

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Relay UK will replace the old Next Generation service over time, so it’s not clear how landline-only users might access the service in the future. We’ve reached out to BT for clarification, and will update this piece when we hear back.

You can download the Relay UK app here.

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