I believe that the platform known as FaceTime, introduced with the iPhone 4, is the future platform of choice for all video telephony in the deaf community.
I don’t say this because I’m a Mac fan, or for any technological evangelism purposes. I say this because it just makes sense. First, a little bit of history with telephony in the deaf community (abridged).
First, there were TTYs and various plain old telephone service technologies. They connected to each other using the existing telephone system developed in the US and elsewhere. Conversations were laborious and slow, but had the virtue of being on the same system and accessible using the same phone numbers that the hearing community used.
Second came wireless devices, starting with the initial popularity of Motorola pagers and Wyndtell RIMs. This started a real explosion in accessibility and communication in the deaf community. Suddenly everyone could contact everyone else easily and quickly. Today we still call our wireless devices (from Blackberries to iPhones) pagers!
Third came the wave of videophones, the most popular being the Sorenson VP-100 and VP-200. Today we see an dizzying array of devices from multiple manufacturers and video relay providers. Each of these devices has interoperability problems with the other, and until recently there were no phone number functional equivalency.
When Apple announced and released FaceTime, and I had the opportunity to use and study it, I realized that it is an incredible solution combining the best of all the above technologies:
* FaceTime has phone number functional equivalence.
* FaceTime works via wireless AND wired connections (wired coming soon)
* FaceTime provides both excellent video and audio
In fact, many VRS providers already use many pieces of the FaceTime technology stack, most notably SIP (Session Initation Protocol). For example, Viable/SnapVRS’ VPAD was one of the first devices on the market to use SIP within its own network.
Apple simply combined many open source technologies, from SIP to STUN, to create a whole stack called FaceTime. I strongly believe that this technology would be the best possible choice for us deaf consumers as it provides everything we need while being compatible with ‘everyone else.’
Once more adoption of FaceTime occurs in the marketplace (think Skype and other video telephony solutions, including iChat and AOL Instant Messenger) there will be an explosion of FaceTime devices on the network. Imagine being able to call everyone from any device, never having to worry about which device you’re using to call from.
Calling your mom’s computer at home with your iPhone 4 using FaceTime? Check. Calling your friend’s Mac from your PC via FaceTime? Check. Calling your friend’s VP-300 from your z5? Check. It’s all possible if all the VRS companies and video providers support FaceTime.
Push for it. Make it happen!