Can you speak robot?

A back injury I suffered has caused me to reflect on a problem that until recently, I was ignorant to the fact that it even existed.

When thinking about adding accessible features to communication products, many focus on the features necessary to allow communication between two or more individuals. This is common because most of the reason why I use a phone is to call another person. Unfortunately, in our society today, getting an actual person to answer your call is becoming less and less probable.

Common tasks such as checking your bank account balance, your 800-Flowers order status or even requesting technical support for your Satellite TV signal requires you to speak a different language: Robot speak; or more accurately, DTMF.

DTMF or Dual-tone multi-frequency signaling is what the communication device on the other end of these calls understands. Granted, many of these systems now support voice commands but many do not and of the ones that do, using the voice feature can be frustrating due to accuracy issues.

Thanks to the cost of labor, automation in everything we do, including phone related tasks, is quickly on the rise. Since communicating with systems is becoming more prevalent in our world, it is now more important than ever to give others the ability to ‘speak robot’. My friends over at Estos think so.

Estos is a partner of ours based in Germany. One of the many items they have engineered is a driver that allows our accessible software, accessaphone, to control and thus improve the accessibility of the Snom SIP phone. This driver is called ECSTA for Snom.

I contacted Estos a while back with a problem regarding a user of ours who did not have an ability to physically handle the phone. Because he could not reach over and press the dial pad keys, he was not able to do simple things such as order a bouquet of flowers, check his credit card balance or even dial another co worker’s extension through his employers’ auto attendant. This user also attends many conference calls, each requiring him to input a password before entering. All of these features require DTMF. The ECSTA driver did not enable our software to invoke the phone to send these DTMF tones to the system on the other end of his calls.

Because of the importance of these functions, Estos vowed to add the feature. Needless to say, the user and I were both amazed and supremely pleased that a company the size of Estos would be able to fit in the feature into their roadmap. It took a few days of engineering and regression testing but they did it. Our software and those who require it can now speak robot.

Before this process, I must admit that I did not understand the true importance of such a feature. We can now all speak robot. Now go and give him a piece of your mind.

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