By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
ROCKLIN, CALIF. – Purple Communications has introduced a home videophone system designed for the deaf and hearing-impaired.
The new SmartVP videophone, developed in partnership with Tely Labs, delivers HD-quality video calling through a television over a video relay service (VRS) that allows deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to connect directly with each other or communicate with hearing people in real-time via American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters.
Purple partnered with Tely Labs to develop SmartVP, which was built on the Android OS and features an HD camera with a wide-angle lens that can send and receive up to 720p video from one SmartVP to another. It also includes select Android-based apps that allow users to access the Yellow Pages, weather info, hearing-impaired-oriented YouTube channels, online food-delivery ordering, or show times and locations for captioned movies through the Captionfish app, among others. Apps can be used during a call without interruption.
The platform is also equipped with a deaf film library.
The SmartVP, like other Purple products, uses a single PurpleOne phone number, allowing users to be reached on the same number on any device, be it the SmartVP or any Android or iOS-based smartphone or tablet. Other VRS providers on the market require separate numbers for different products.
A remote control allows users to begin a phone call from anywhere in the room with one touch.
The system also includes two 360-degree bright flashers and is compatible with Sonic Alert to alert users of incoming calls, even when in another room.
Contact lists are shared across multiple devices and the contact information can be updated online — both firsts for VRS users, according to Purple. Users can save up to five numbers for one contact. Rather than scrolling, users can type the area code to locate a number or add friends and family they call the most to a favorite contacts list immediately shown when signed on. Plus, contacts can be pulled up while on the call.
SmartVP also features PurpleMail, a message system that allows users to have a personal outgoing message in ASL and receive messages from callers in ASL. During the call, the ASL interpreter can type out important information, such as addresses or phone numbers, from the hearing caller which can then be sent to the user’s email. Similarly, the deaf party can type out information for the interpreter to relay to the hearing caller. To ensure privacy, the text chat is subsequently erased from the interpreter’s screen.
Multiple users, such as spouses, roommates or family members, can easily switch back and forth between accounts without logging out. For privacy, a PIN can be set to limit access.
Built-in speakers and microphones for voice carry over allow a deaf individual who prefers to use his/her own voice when making a call to speak directly to the caller.
Purple will roll out SmartVP market-by-market in phases using a one-on-one installation process to ensure customer service and quality, the company said.
“The deaf community has a history of embracing new technologies that improve the quality and flexibility of their communications. Today, we’re excited to begin unveiling SmartVP as the next generation of video communications for people who are deaf or hard of hearing,” said John Ferron, Purple’s president and CEO. “We’ve been delighted with early feedback from our customers and how impressed they are with the functionality and ease of use of SmartVP when compared to other options in the market. We’re excited to begin sharing SmartVP with customers as we begin our regional rollout.”
Purple has signed on Katie Leclerc, the hearing-impaired actress who stars in ABC’s “Switched at Birth” TV series, as a spokeswoman. Leclerc suffers from a genetic inner ear disorder called Meniere’s disease and is fluent in ASL.
“I’m so proud to be working with Purple and see their authentic commitment to getting their products just right for customers,” said Leclerc. “SmartVP is an amazing videophone and besides all the wonderfully unique features for the deaf consumer, it’s also just very cool! I know my deaf friends will definitely want one as soon as it comes to their area.”
“Our goal at Purple is to deliver an exceptional video relay service experience for our customers on any screen they want to use; PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone or TV. SmartVP fulfills our five-screen strategy and goes well beyond simply allowing customers to make video calls from their televisions,” said Tony La Rosa, Purple’s chief technology officer. “The inclusion of relevant applications and features that make calling easier, including 911 emergency services, set SmartVP far apart from competitive options in the market today and give us a platform that is rich for further innovations.”
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