Products30th August 2015

Glide 'video texting' app is so useful!

Allowing people to record video messages of up to 5 minutes, Glide is deaf-friendly and perfect for sign language users

by Sarah Lawrence, Editor

Like an awful lot of Deaf people, I feel I have benefited a great deal from the explosion in technology that has come with our mobile phones. Long distance communication, such a huge issue for me in the past, has suddenly opened up and I can enjoy signed conversations with people all over the world.

It's seems like only a few months ago that I was able to send my first ever text message and marvelling about how fantastic that was. When I received my first response, I felt elation at the prospect of sending messages to people I don't see on a regular basis. It also allowed me to converse with hearing people without an interpreter, text messaging in effect my telephone call. Of course it wasn't perfect because you couldn't tell if the person on the other end had received or read the message, and it can be tortuous waiting for a response that you need as quickly as possible.

Even more annoying was the inability to use text messaging more widely with the business community in those early days. Many businesses were, and some still are, very slow to react to the communication options used frequently by their customers, and in the case of Deaf people, text messaging is light years better than having to use the phone all the time.

No sooner was I getting used to using text messaging, than video messaging came along through Skype initially and then Facetime for those of us who are Apple users. Initially, it was a little hit and miss, but what a fantastic option for deaf people it has become and I am pleased to see that more and more businesses are now using it to make remote BSL interpretation available to its customers.

A frequent user of the technology, the pace of change seems amazing and it's really difficult to keep up with the latest 'deaf-friendly' invention especially since apps came along. Almost every week there is something new and I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find out which ones can enhance my life.

With my friends, I know that Whatsapp has virtually taken over 'old fashioned' text messaging. It's free and it has added functionality, like knowing when the other person has received the message on their mobile and then when they have read it. I love it, and the fact that it is free when I have wifi is just amazing. I probably use it to have more than 10 conversations a day, and it takes away any excuse not to stay in touch with people who mean something to you.

How wonderful if would be to have a video chat facility identical to Whatsapp. No sooner was I thinking that, than someone asked me if I knew about Glide. Glide was created in 2013 by a group of friends in Israel and amazingly it already has 20 million registered users worldwide, 250,000 of whom, are believed to be deaf. Whilst that number is amazing, I'm actually surprised it's not higher, because for me, Glide is a game changer. And of course it's free.

Like much of the deaf-friendly technology, Glide wasn't created with deaf communication in mind, it just happens to lend itself to signed communication. The creators of Glide were seeking to develop something that mirrored the convenience of Whatsapp but provided video communication. What they have delivered to the market place is exactly. The ability to send a video message when you want to send one, and the person at the other end watching it and replying when they are ready.

The quality of a Glide video is outstanding and with a time limit of 5 minute on each message, there is plenty of time to send a detailed message. If both parties to the communication are available at the same time, it can be close to instant. Like Whatsapp, Glide tells you when the person on the other end is watching your video clip, and when they are recording a new message. Very helpfully, it also allows text messaging. There is also a group function, so that you can send a Glide message to more than one person at the time.

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The Jerusalem-based creators, now know that Glide is used extensively by the deaf community following requests for their marketing materials to be subtitled so that Deaf people could follow their instructions and share information amongst Deaf friends.

Despite recognition of the usability for Deaf users, the creators have no plans to continue to develop Glide purely with Deaf people in mind, past mobile messaging successes being achieved through going big, not by concentrating on a smaller section of society. Having already raised €25 million in venture capital, Glide has not yet made any money, but with 20 million users in just 2 years, there is every chance it will be highly profitable in the future.

Personally, I'm happy that they are not going to design improvements around Deaf users, as nearly all of the technology I find most useful, has not been designed with my deafness in mind. I already use Glide in a number of different ways in my personal, business and teaching life and as more and more of my connections start to use it, I anticipate using it more and more going forward. I just hope it remains free to use.

Despite saying they will not be concentrating on the deaf community when developing Glide, the creators have said they are looking into ways to translate sign language into text and text into signs, but there are universities around the world looking to do that and whilst there are some positive signs of progress, it seems unlikely that is going to be available any day soon.

Sarah Snow Glide's Community Manager said, "We are very thankful to the Deaf and HoH community for being so warm and welcoming to Glide and hope to continue making visual communication more accessible to all." 

Article by Sarah Lawrence, Editor

posted in Technology / Products

30th August 2015