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Sprint adds Web component to its voice-to-text service

Sprint Nextel's new WebCapTel lets users with hearing impairments read their conversations in real time on the Web.

Sprint Nextel today announced an interesting new service that's designed for people with hearing impairments. Sprint WebCapTel is a Web-based program that shows a person what his or her caller is saying through real-time captions. But unlike the carrier's existing CapTel service, WebCapTel doesn't need any special equipment. Instead, users only need to log onto a Web site where they'll see the captions displayed. And in instances where the user has some residual hearing, callers will be audible through the phone as normal.

WebCapTel is free and you can use it with any phone, both wireless and landline. If you use a cell phone, your calls will be deducted from your standard allotment of monthly minutes, but that's true for just about any add-on service. Also, you won't need to download any software; you'll need only to log into the service using a Web browser. On the other hand, Spanish-captioned calls will only be available during certain times, and your phone won't show caller ID for WebCapTel calls. And you can forget about calling overseas friends as the service is limited to calls in the United States and U.S territories. Yet, even with those small limitations it still sounds promising. Eventually, Sprint says it hopes to offer the captions on cell phone browsers, which would be very cool indeed.