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Meet the silent conversation – thanks to Israeli technology

Posted By Allison Kaplan Sommer On January 23, 2005 @ 11:18 pm In | No Comments

With Silent Communication’s ‘Talking Without Talking’, the cell phone allows the user to prerecord messages that can be played by pushing the right buttons on a menu.What if you could carry on a telephone conversation while remaining perfectly silent?

It sounds impossible, but it is a technology that is likely to come to your cell phone within the next few years.

The new technology will put an end to what has become a familiar scene – an embarrassed person answering his silent but vibrating cellphone in a meeting, lecture, or performance, and whispering loudly, ‘I can’t talk to you right now’ – or, in the case of an urgent call, apologetically rushing out of the room in order to answer or call the person back.

An Israeli company called Silent Communications promises to help us carry on a two-way conversation without making a sound.

“Our product is based on research that has found there are numerous situations in which users would like to receive phone calls, but are unable to speak,” Max Bluvband, the company’s Vice President for Marketing and Business Development, told ISRAEL21c. “These situations make up roughly 120 billion minutes of telephone air time per year worldwide.”

Right now, when a cell phone is set on ‘silent’ – communication is strictly one-way – the recipient of a phone call can see who is calling on his cell phone screen, but is unable to answer the person without speaking and disturbing those around him. As a result, most of these calls are not answered.

And obviously, no calls are initiated in these ‘silent situations’ since there is no point in calling someone if you cannot talk to that person.

But the Silent Communications solution that the company has dubbed ‘Talking without Talking’ (TWT) changes this.

With TWT, the cell phone allows the user to prerecord messages that can be played by pushing the right buttons on a menu. Users can answer incoming calls that otherwise would have been missed and rejected – and converse freely while remaining silent.

The cell phone user hears the speaker on the other end using the handset or with a headset, and can respond to the caller by selecting pre-recorded responses. The product would come with a list of pre-recorded responses, but owners would be able to customize and alter their own responses, and record the existing responses in their own voice if they wish.

For example, you can have a prerecorded setting on your phone in which you say to your spouse: ‘Honey, don’t wait for me for dinner, I’m delayed in a meeting.’

Then, in a situation where you are stuck in the meeting and can’t leave the room, you can quietly dial home and inform your spouse of your delay without making a sound.

Or, if your spouse takes the initiative and calls you – and you detect the call on your silent ring, you can ‘answer’ their call and play your prerecorded message.

Similarly, if you are attending a concert at a time when a work crisis is in progress, you can check into the office with a prerecorded message enquiring on the status of the project, ‘speaking’ to a colleague, asking him what is going on, and listening to the answer – without talking and becoming the recipient of angry glances from your fellow music lovers.

Over time, a long list of responses and messages can be compiled from a generic ‘ ‘I’m in a meeting now, I’ll be calling you back at 5 PM,’ to a specific message intended for on particular caller.

If there isn’t any appropriate prerecorded response to a question that the user is asked, the technology will allow the user to type in a response, as if they are writing an SMS, and the phone will ‘convert’ the written text into electronic speech.

The company was established in January of 2003 after businessman and university lecturer, Dr. Zigmund Bluvband, had the idea following his own frustrating experiences missing important calls as he sat in meetings all day – and being disturbed in his classes by students who were receiving theirs.

Bluvband, the company’s president, put together a development team and a business team, which includes his son Max, and progress has been relatively quick.

The company holds a worldwide patent which is in the process of being finalized, and customers are already being lined up in the Far East, Europe and Israel. The company sells its technology both to mobile phone vendors and to the operators.

“We are a very attractive proposition for these companies,” explains Max Bluvband. “With all of the millions of phones in circulation, there is great potential for increasing earnings by saving ‘lost calls’ – telephone calls that go unanswered or uninitiated because the user is in a situation in which he or she cannot speak – not just in business meetings, but everyday situations such as a mother who is trying to get her baby down for a nap.

“According to our research, these ‘lost calls’ are worth $20 billion per year worldwide. For the cellular operator, these are potential earnings that are currently being left on the table. When these ‘lost calls’ become answerable, and can be conducted without making a sound, there is a tremendous potential for increased profits.”


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