Sorenson's offers the highest-quality communication products and services for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL). With over 11 million deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in the US, Sorenson recognized the opportunity to facilitate communication through videophone technology. In 2003, they introduced the first videophone designed specifically for use by deaf individuals. Coupled with their Video Relay Service (VRS), deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals could conduct video calls with hearing family, friends, and business associates through an ASL interpreter.
The next step for Sorenson's Video Relay Service was a video-conferencing desktop application for PC. Sorenson partnered with Method to define the interface design and user experience for ntouch, a new VRS platform intended to further improve the experience of existing customers as well as to attract new customers. Beyond being an innovative and useful communication platform, ntouch also had to be consistent with Sorenson's existing suite of VRS products and leverage the powerful capabilities of a keyboard-based PC application.
Working closely with Sorenson and the deaf community, Method sought to understand the unique needs and requirements of the deaf and create an interactive icon-based solution to meet those needs. Method visited the homes of dozens of existing Sorenson customers, both in-person and via the existing videophone solution. We spoke with these users about how they use the existing systems, what alternatives they have used, and any difficulties they have faced while using these systems. We evaluated the competitor products and identified areas for improvement.
Tutti Taygerly, Director of User Experience at Method stated: "We learned that the success of the VRS service, adapted to the PC, lies in accurately displaying the authentic representation of the conversation. We were creating an interface that needed to recede in order to allow the content, the video conversation with your loved ones, to take full prominence."
The ntouch interface displays a straightforward icon-based global navigation and content organization that simplifies access into core functionality around making a call, contacts management, SignMail, and call history. Deeper, less-accessed functionality is receded to secondary or tertiary panels. The final ntouch solution enables deaf users to communicate with their loved ones where-ever they have access to a PC and a high-speed internet connection, whether in-home, at the office, or anywhere in-between. Launched in May 2011, ntouch is already being used in homes, helping people to easily interact in a more intimate, reliable way.
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