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BT trials mobile SMS to voice landline

Speech synthesis

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BT is to trial a service that enables customers to send SMS messages from mobiles to landline phones using text-to-speech conversion.

The proposed service is designed for anybody who wants to text someone without a mobile, or to a leave a message for someone who doesn't have an answerphone.

BT reckons the service will be particularly useful for elderly, blind or partially-sighted people who have not been able to make use of SMS previously. It could also help parents who have not caught up with the SMS world but want to keep in touch with their children.

In business SMS-to-voice could, for example, broadcast information to a wide range of people. It can also be used in business situations where, an employees' company does not provide a mobile, but a person still wants to leave a message.

Users with voicemail systems, such as BT's Call Minder, will have the message delivered directly into their voicemail. Recipients without voicemail will receive the text through a phone call where an automated voice will deliver the message.

If the user's line is busy then the system will make a number of attempts to pass the message on. The speech message can also be saved and accessed later. Users with text-enabled fixed-line handsets will be able to receive messages in text format rather than as voice messages.

The synthetic speech conversion is able to recognise and convert common 'text speech' abbreviations. The female voice used in the message can even laugh and in the future will be able to send musical jingles as part of messages, BT promises.

Heaven help us.

Paul Reynolds, chief executive of BT Wholesale, said: "Extending it [SMS] to fixed lines through the imaginative use of text to voice technology will make it a much more flexible and fun service for business and personal users."

BT Wholesale's trial of SMS-to-voice will establish any technical and process issues so that they can be resolved before a wider rollout. The service will be delivered as a wholesale offering through service providers. BT said a "number of operators" (it isn't saying how many) have expressed an interest in the service and are currently in discussion with BT Wholesale. ®

Ten uses for SMS-voice, as suggested by BT

  1. For kids to tell their family they'll be out late
  2. Sending a happy birthday message to your grandparents
  3. To send a message to someone who can't text due to physical impairment
  4. Telling the office receptionist you'll be late
  5. Ordering a takeaway when they're engaged
  6. As a soft wake-up call
  7. To teach someone how to pronounce a word
  8. As a better way of telling jokes by mobile
  9. As a form of phone karaoke!
  10. Admitting guilt without being shouted at!

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