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Let Your Text Do The Talking

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the Daily Mirror, November 6, 2002. Image: Two blind young men are smiling while they use a spoken text messenger.

BLIND or visually impaired mobile phone users will soon be able to "read" text messages.

BT's inventions division, BT Exact, has come up with a system to translate text messages into spoken voice. Helped by the National Association for the Blind, it's one of the first attempts in this country to address the issue of mobile phones and the blind.

With the new "text-to-speech" software, people with eyesight problems can now hear the messages they are sent, and the natural-sounding voice can even recognize text messaging jargon.

This may seem like a patently simple thing but it's taken almost a year for BT boffins to get this far, and even now, it's something they're hailing as "ground-breaking". But don't get excited just yet.

At first, this software, will only work with expensive Microsoft mobile phones (such as the new Orange SPV or the O2 XDA), and won't be introduced until partnerships are in place next year.

Mesar Hameed, the 17-year-old student who suggested the idea to BT says: "It's a great idea because at the moment you have to get someone else to read text messages to you, which you might not want if it's personal."

The technology could, feasibly, be extended on to other new mobiles, and eventually become a common feature of mobile communications.