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SK Telecom Tests WebRTC for the Blind

Sarah Thomas
5/9/2014

WebRTC has made its way out of R&D at SK Telecom, and the operator is developing ways to apply the real-time communications technology to a wide range of services. First up: a better customer support experience for the visually impaired.

In a recent interview with Light Reading, Choi Jin-ho, manager of SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM)'s ICT R&D division, told us about the operator's aggressive plans for the technology, which lets users click-to-call from any supported web browser. He says it's still in the early stages, and it's not easy to develop WebRTC-based services targeting consumers, but the company is exploring possibilities in certain areas. (See SK Telecom Sounds Off on WebRTC.)

One such area is a service for the visually impaired that Jin-ho says has been developed and is currently being tested. Using WebRTC, images are recorded from a web camera that is part of a wearable device used by a visually impaired person. These images are sent to a customer center in real time where agents will verbally explain the situation to the visually impaired user based on what they see in the images. Jin-ho says the service will be commercially available in the latter half of the year.

This is just one example of many scenarios that WebRTC can enable. Some will be more trivial, such as NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM)'s chat room or more enterprise-focused like Voxbone SA 's service offering to click-to-call any call center or to join a conference. (See NTT Opens a WebRTC Chat Room and Voxbone Tweaks Its Network for WebRTC .)

Like the rest of the market, SK Telecom is still figuring out how to implement the protocol and build services around it. Find out more of Jin-ho's thoughts on the market, the potential, and the sizable challenges in a new Prime Reading feature on the site: SK Telecom Sounds Off on WebRTC.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Tsahi Levent-Levi
Tsahi Levent-Levi
5/10/2014 | 6:53:15 AM
Re: development
Sarah,

 

It actually supports only Chrome, Firefox and Opera at the moment.

How and when Microsoft IE and Apple Safari support it is still an open issue: http://bloggeek.me/webrtc-apple-or-microsoft/
mhhf1ve
mhhf1ve
5/9/2014 | 5:47:04 PM
Re: development
Wearables might incorporate audio communications is a variety of ways -- I imagine a Fitbit (or any kind of health tracker device) with a direct line to a personal trainer who doesn't need to actually run with you -- and this personal trainer could bark orders at you (via your Beats/Apple earbuds) like a drill sergeant and remotely see if your heart rate was increasing from doing pushups, laps, or whatnot. 

I also can imagine that all those "I've fallen and I can't get up" devices would be a bit more common.... 

And Google Glass itself could replace a smartphone if it had an earpiece (or bone conduction speakers) and a microphone.

And, as always, there's the GetSmart shoe phone (TM)...
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
5/9/2014 | 1:31:10 PM
Re: Voice communications are ready for disruption
WebRTC can be used OTT, but it benefits from opreator support through SIP or with a service like Voxbone is offering. I think that's where the QOS comes from. I'm not sure I see it being a net neutrality issue, but I suppose it depends on how the operators support and price it.
Ariella
Ariella
5/9/2014 | 1:30:35 PM
Re: development
@Sarah all good. It's great to have technology put to work in that way.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
5/9/2014 | 1:29:17 PM
Re: development
It works on any browser, so technically it would work on any device with a browser too. How do you see it being used in wearables?
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
5/9/2014 | 1:28:35 PM
Re: development
It does seem that a lot of cool innovations are born from trying to overcome a challenge for someone with a disability. T9 and Swype come to mind as other examples of changing text input to work for the visually impaired.
mhhf1ve
mhhf1ve
5/9/2014 | 12:13:29 PM
Voice communications are ready for disruption
The recent buzz about net neutrality may make an impact on these real time communication apps -- especially because these apps require a minimum quality of service to work. It's interesting that telephones were the inspiration for net neutrality, and now voice apps over the internet are poised to be derailed by the end of net neutrality.
mhhf1ve
mhhf1ve
5/9/2014 | 12:05:49 PM
Re: development
This kind of real time communication could make wearable gadgets really useful for everyone, not just the visually impaired. Google glass has gotten some publicity for its augmented reality functions, but adding an audio component might make wearable cameras really interesting.
Ariella
Ariella
5/9/2014 | 9:27:30 AM
development
I think it's just great that they're developing ways of making information more accessible to the visually impaired. Perhaps down the road, they'll have to set up machine learning to allow a system to speak the information without having to get people to do so. 
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