Today, a new advancement in VRS calling

It’s days like this that make me proud that I’m part of the engineering team at ZVRS. This morning, at the NAD conference, ZVRS worked with Google on a demo of our prototype ZVRS app for Google+ Hangouts.

The ZVRS app for Hangouts extends the functionality of a Google+ Hangout to allow a deaf person to automatically bring in a sign language interpreter! Once the interpreter shows up in the video hangout, the deaf person can then dial a hearing person’s phone number. When the hearing person answers the phone, the call can be seamlessly interpreted.

Here’s a few screenshots of what the ZVRS app for Hangout looks like:

Starting a Hangout

First, you start a hangout but since this will be a private call to a hearing person’s phone, you don’t invite anyone to your hangout:

Inviting an sign language interpreter into your hangout

Once the Google+ hangout window pops up, the ZVRS app shows up on the top menu bar.  Since this is only a prototype, only those who have been whitelisted can see the ZVRS app.

There’s a short wait after you invite an interpreter.  Our backend systems start searching for an available interpreter that can be assigned to your hangout.

Now that there is an interpreter ready in the hangout, you can proceed to call out to a hearing person’s phone number and bring them into your hangout.

Calling a hearing person’s phone

Since you’re dialing a phone number, click the +telephone link and add the phone number.

Now the hearing person on the other end of the line is an active participant in your video hangout, and the call can proceed as an interpreted call!

Why this is game-changing

Google+ works across a range of platforms, from PC Windows, Apple Macs, Linux desktops, and Android tablets! (iPad support isn’t fully there yet).  There’s also several cool features such as chat window which makes it easy for the caller or interpreter to type out account numbers, confirmation numbers, addresses, phone numbers, etc.

For those who are technically inclined, Google+ hangouts are based on Vidyo technology and H.264 SVC.  This means that the video quality can be maintained over a network with some packet loss without causing annoying artifacts.

Also, imagine if you were in a hangout with several people and all of sudden, a hearing person joined, it takes only one click to bring in an interpreter for the hearing person!

If you know that the hearing person you are trying to call has a Google account, you can invite the hearing person directly to the conversation and enjoy the bonus of actually seeing their face on the call, rather than a face-less audio only call to their phone.  This is the first VRS/VRI capable app where you are able to actually see the hearing person if they so happen to have an account.  FCC may want to start taking note of the advancement of a new class of VRS calling apps in the modern world, where video calls are becoming more prevalent in the hearing world and people/business may not always have a phone number to call.

Since ZVRS app is still a prototype that needs to be fully fleshed out while developing the appropriate backend systems to support many calls, it will be a while before it’ll be officially released to the public.  This is another example of how ZVRS is standing out in the VRS industry as a company that isn’t content to rest on our laurels and how we are constantly pushing the envelope on better communication tools for the deaf.  This is one of the reasons why I’m proud to be part of this amazing company!

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