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CES Communications Round-Up Part 2: Viable

In Part 1 of our CES communications coverage we reviewed a new consumer-focused video phone service from VidTel. Now let’s talk about one of the purpose-built applications for this technology— hearing-impaired support services.

Viable Inc. (www.viable.net) is a three-year-old startup with employees who are very vested in the success of their company. You see, the majority of them are deaf or hearing impaired. Their VPAD video phone and ViableVRS deaf interpreting service were launched early in 2008. While their mission is to provide a tailor-made service that improves the lives of deaf people and their family, friends, and business associates, Viable’s products provide a comprehensive communications platform. The VPAD is WiFi enabled so you can take it with you and get one-click access to the ViableVRS service wherever you can get Internet access. They also have a softphone client that provides access to Viable’s intermediaries via the web. You can even use a real ten-digit phone number to work seamlessly with the public telephone network.

Viable announced the VPAD+ phone last Fall. It has improved echo-cancellation for better voice quality, Bluetooth for head-phone support, a touch-screen and redesigned user interface, and two USB ports for adding a mouse and keyboard.

Mandated by Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Viable’s business model benefits from a government mandate (and subsidies) for telecommunications relay services (TRS) that have evolved into video relay services (VRS) with the advent of converged Internet Protocol communications. But it’s not all charity. There is a strong case for home-based and small businesses looking for a differentiator (and good public relations) to use Viable to cater to the hearing-impaired market. Whether you are a pizza shop or a home-based Internet reseller, the ability to take orders from the deaf community could help you drive incremental revenues and stand out from the crowd.

Viable’s VPAD+ retails for $699 but has been available this past year for an introductory price of $99 for folks willing to provide much-needed testing and feedback as part of its beta trials.

I had a chance to take a quick look at CES. Viable won a CES Innovations award so their display was packed with people. Take a look for yourself:

Or take a look at their corporate VPAD demo (which is much better quality than mine) but keep in mind it highlights their first generation device without the enhancements of the VPAD+:

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