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Tropo and HopeOneSource Partner to End Homelessness in Washington, DC Area

Posted on December 15, 2016 by Alice Cho

People who are at-risk of or experiencing homelessness in Washington, DC have a new tool for accessing career and social services. HopeOneSource, a web-based application that uses geolocated text messages, helps people access services including:

  • employment opportunities
  • career training
  • free meals
  • health screenings
  • permanent housing
  • emergency shelter during extreme weather

HopeOneSource launched in late 2015 in cooperation with local government and social service providers. As of December 1, 2016, around 5% of DC residents experiencing homelessness had registered on the platform. Over half of those registered are youth aged 14-24.

Tropo, a Cisco company, has partnered with HopeOneSource to take steps toward preventing and ending homelessness in Washington D.C. and beyond.

The project first came to the attention of the Tropo team when HopeOneSource won a Tropo Hackathon at a Drupal conference. Since then, Tropo has provided substantial financial, technical, and outreach support to help HopeOneSource provide more residents with information and access to essential services.

Earlier this year, White House staff, DC government officials, and local business leaders recognized Cisco representatives for working to prevent and end youth homelessness.

The Tropo service allows integration of SMS, VoIP, and other telephony services called from a simple-to-use API. HopeOneSource’s collaborative messaging tool works like this:

  • Provider organizations register to post messages about their services through the HopeOneSource web portal.
  • Providers can target messages to specific a geolocation and predefined demographic categories such as youth, veteran, LGBTQ, families, and senior care.
  • Residents at-risk or experiencing homelessness sign up to receive text messages via their phones. During a short online registration, they select their general location and the services they need.
  • HopeOneSource sends SMS messages to participants based on the area in which they registered.

To receive messages, users simply need access to a mobile phone with text-message capabilities. Potential users without a phone can access one through the federal Lifeline program.

While currently focused on Washington, DC, HopeOneSource plans to expand its service to other cities.

Tropo’s new Text To Speech Engine

Posted on December 14, 2016 by Ralf Schiffert

I happen to contact call centers occasionally. For example, when I get a new internet connection at home, need an RMA or for a dozen other reasons. On many occasions, I really appreciate how hard agents try and I’m grateful for the help they provide. What stops me in my tracks though, is if they start reading a script in their most monotonous voice, which typically sets me up to just hang up and redial. The best experiences are typically when I hear empathy, confidence and curiosity in someone’s voice, indicating their willingness to work with me.

That brings me to today’s topic. Text To Speech engines, those magical pieces of software that make a computer utter words like a human would and ostensibly will make us fall in love with them, have improved dramatically over the years.  We have partnered with one of the biggest providers in the area of Human Machine Interfaces, and they work tirelessly to not only improve intelligibility, but also to introduce enhancements to intonation, an almost mellifluous quality, and dare I say it, empathy into their computer voice. We are ready to extend this offer to our US English voices.

This change is free of charge to you.

For many languages we already offer this new TTS engine.  In the coming weeks we will be updating the mapping between the current US English and Spanish (Mexico) voice names (they typically start with a V) to the new voices listed in the table below.

If you use one of the V-voices today we recommend that you try the new voices.   If you don’t like our default mapping you may set the voice in your app to your preferred alternative.  Our documentation describes how to do this for both the WebAPI  and the scripting API.

You can take advantage of most of the new voices today, with the addition of Zoe and Evelyn by mid January 2017. Come March 1st, 2017, we will remap the V-voices to the new voices as per tables below.

We hope you enjoy this enhancement as much as we do.

 

New voices being introduced mid January, 2017.

US English (female) Evelyn, Zoe

 

 

Unchanged voices: If you already configured any of the going-forward voices below you will experience no change in your service.

US English (female) Allison, Ava, Susan, Samantha
US English (male) Tom
Spanish MX (female) Paulina, Angelica
Spanish MX (male) Juan

 

 

If you use any of the voices in the left column of this table, they will be remapped to the voice in the right column. Only if you do not like our own mapping will you have to select one of the voice names in the above table

If you are using this voice today It will sound like this voice if you don’t make any change
Not specified/default AVA
Vanessa (us-us) AVA
Veronica (us-us) Zoe
Victor (us-us) Tom
Violeta  (sp-mx) Paulina

 

Timestamped Watermarks for Apps in Free Development Environment

Posted on October 17, 2016 by JP Shipherd

We frequently receive feedback that iterative development on Tropo scripting apps in the free development environment can be frustrating because it takes some time for updated script files to propagate to all of Tropo’s global servers. The impact of this is felt when a developer hits the “Save” button in Tropo’s scripting editor and makes a test call, but the previous version of the script is still being active for that test call.

The Tropo platform doesn’t give the developer any feedback on which version of the script was executed so the developer may spend debugging cycles only to conclude that the latest version of their script was not executed. Experienced developers often put a say(“”) with some unique text at the top of the script for assurance about the version running.

In our upcoming release we plan to address this by adding watermarks to applications that run in the development environment. When this goes into effect the first prompt in a call or message in a messaging application will provide the timestamp of the of the script that is being run.

For every call and message that connects through the Tropo service you will see or hear a message like this: “Welcome to Tropo. The script is last updated on [time, date]

Once you are done with your development efforts you can move your app into production and this watermark will disappear. We hope that this speeds up your iterative development cycle and inspires you to move your fully developed apps into production!

If you have any questions, please visit our support page.