SimPhony: Voice Group Communication

Lakshmipathy, V. "SimPhony: Voice Group Communication"


Communication is vital in any workplace. However, as workers become less tied to their desktops and computers, the need to provide them with a flexible, easy to use, mobile method of communication becomes more necessary. This is particularly true in "non-traditional" workplaces like factories or hospitals. Cell phones, PDA's, and walkie-talkies provide the mobility and most are easy to use, however, they are not designed specifically with the workplace in mind and as a result, they do not adapt to a worker's changing environment.

The Simphony communication system is a mobile, voice-controlled, voice communication system built on the iPaq (or any similar PDA) designed specifically for distributed workgroups. It uses the 802.11b network to transmit either synchronous or asynchronous voice data depending on the worker's environment or preference. The system allows for one-to-one or one-to-many communication with voice instant messages or synchronous audio. Simphony transitions between different communication styles as the communication becomes more frequent. When at least 3 voice instant messages are exchanged between two individuals or between an individual and a group, the system automatically transitions them into a synchronous audio chat.

The Simphony interface looks much like an instant messaging client but is accessible by voice commands or by button presses on the PDA screen. Simphony allows users to define groups of individuals with whom they can communicate with simultaneously. When a group that a user is a member of becomes active, the user receives notification of the activity by hearing approximately 10 seconds of the audio from that group. If the user is currently in another conversation, she can decide to remain in her present conversation or switch to the newly active group.

This thesis describes the design and implementation of the Simphony system and its various applications in different areas.

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