published Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Chattanooga-based Clarity introduces new phone, tablet

Clarity, a division of Plantronics, and ClearCaptions have joined together to launch Ensemble, a first-of-its-kind amplified phone that allows individuals with hearing loss to read conversations as well as hear them.
Clarity, a division of Plantronics, and ClearCaptions have joined together to launch Ensemble, a first-of-its-kind amplified phone that allows individuals with hearing loss to read conversations as well as hear them.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Ensemble

Developers: Clarity and ClearCaptions

Price: $229

What is it: An amplified telephone and 7-inch Android tablet that displays text of conversation

How it works: By connecting with ClearCaptions, callers get a third party to transcribe phone conversations that are displayed on the computer tablet.

Potential market: 36 million Americans who are hard of hearing

Most electronics manufacturers are showing off their newest gadgets for tech savvy users at the International Consumer Electronics Show this week, but a Chattanooga company is using the Las Vegas event to introduce a device to simplify communications for hard-of-hearing seniors.

Clarity, the Chattanooga-based division of Plantronics, teamed up ClearCaptions, a company that provides text transcription captioning services for phone calls, to introduce the Ensemble on Wednesday. The new amplified phone and computer tablet, when connected with a phone line, Wi-Fi Internet and third party phone transcriber, offers a text of the phone conversation for users to see and later review.

"By using the new computer tablets, we can combine voice and text in a very easy to use device that can truly be life changing for millions of people who want to enjoy phone conversations again," Carsten Trads, president of Clarity, said in a phone interview from the company's exhibit in Las Vegas. "Ensemble is breaking new ground on sight and sound. Not only is it loud and clear, but it's the first to deliver captions through a tablet display."

Clarity will sell for $229. Although that's a relatively low price for a computer table with phone connections, it's still a steep price for a telephone. But Trads insists the Ensemble is far more than just an amplified phone.

By connecting with ClearCaptions, a third party joins on the line and transcribes the conversation for a text display on the Adroit tablet in real time. The cost of that transcription is paid through a federal fund available for anyone who is hard of hearing, Trads said.

Colleen Taylor, a San Francisco-based reporter for TechCrunch who was among those reviewing the new device this week, says the Ensemble "packs a one-two punch for people who have trouble hearing: It provides sophisticated amplified audio like a hearing aid, and real-time text captioning of the ongoing conversation on a seven-inch screen."

Clarity is shipping 200 of the new Ensemble phones this week and the device should be in most electronics stores in a few months.

"We think this has a tremendous market potential," said Trads, who expects to soon be selling tens of thousands of the units a year.

John Ferron, CEO of Purple Communications Inc., the provider of the ClearCaptions service, said the Ensemble offers an intuitive touchscreen interface that is easy for seniors to set up and use, even for those with visual problems.

"Time and again, we've heard how captions take the frustration out of using the phone," Ferron said. "Ensemble brings the best of both worlds _ Clarity's best-in-class amplification with our popular ClearCaptions service _ to offer a phone unlike anything the millions impacted by hearing loss have experienced."

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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