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Mobile phones were specifically designed for speaking and listening with another person who is not with you. Those with hearing problems sometimes struggle with using this form of communication, but with the development of handsets and introduction of smartphones, there could be improved ways for deaf people to speak to others.

Using videochat technology which has become an increasingly popular feature on many phones these days, hearing-challenged users can use sign-language to have conversations, just like how they would face-to-face with someone. What better excuse to recycle your phone and upgrade to a new smartphone with these features.

The University of Washington has been developing a system to make it cheaper for videochat to work over 3G networks. Jessica Tran, a doctoral student said: “The point is to provide real-time video cellular communication for deaf people. We are able to send video over both 3G and Wi-Fi networks at a very low bit rate.”

Those who have hearing-problems have previously had to rely on videochat on PCs, or use text messaging on mobile devices, but this was often problematic because of the limited space and inability to convey emotions, voice inflections or body language.

However, with phones such as the iPhone 4, HTV Evo and Samsung’s Epic 4G phone, front-facing cameras are becoming evermore popular. The only problem is how much bandwith they consume with is why this research into cheaper options is taking place.

If ever there was a reason to sell your old mobile and trade in for a smartphone with videochat capabilities, this would be it.

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