Initially the Apple iPhone, a relative newcomer to the Irish telecoms market, may seem to be just another gadget, but there’s a lot more to it.
The iPhone 4 differs from its predecessors in being marketed for video calls, media consumption, web and e-mail access. Most relevantly, it supports the FaceTime application which none of the previous iPhone versions support.
Video calls (with lip-reading or signing)
FaceTime enables iPhone 4 users to make video calls with fellow iPhone 4 contacts at a whole new level. While FaceTime resembles Skype (software for web-based video and voice calls), its images are perfectly clear (no grain), for deaf users to sign to one another or for lip-reading conversation.
This application is a big turning point for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in providing advanced visual communications for the first time. Video chat is possible between hearing and deaf iPhone 4 users if sign interpreters join a FaceTime session, and/or a lip-reader ‘reads’ the face of a screen contact.
Conveniently, this 4th generation of iPhone has cameras at the back and front for lip-reading and signing users. “The front camera [is] tuned for FaceTime and has just the right field of view and focal length to focus on your face at arm’s length”, the advertisement for this product boasts.
While the iPhone 4 with FaceTime vastly improves personal communication, the app has more potential. It promises significant educational benefits and training possibilities, namely increased access to distance learning opportunities and programmes (such as video tutorials).
The iPhone 4 is currently unavailable to some users for cost reasons, but its applications will in time be offered on a wider range of mobile handsets. These breakthroughs will revolutionise communication channels and options, especially for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, in the immediate future.
(compiled by Nicola Fox)
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