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The Virtual Interpreting Landscape

Not All VIT Solutions Are Created Equal

13 May 2020

Nimdzi Finger Food is the bite-sized and free to sample insight you need to fuel your decision-making today.

If you are looking for more information on virtual interpreting technology, check out our VIT Feature Explorer, or contact us today to explore our library of interpreting publications.

One year ago, we called the VIT hype a solution without a problem. In times of COVID-19 it has now become the solution to the problem.

We figured this might be a good time to clarify the difference between some remote interpreting acronyms that easily get mixed up: VIT, VRI, OPI, and RSI. 

Virtual Interpreting Technology

When we first analyzed the interpreting technology space, we learned that there were many names used to describe it. The two most commonly used terms were remote and distance interpreting but we found that both carry negative connotations. Remote and distance both conjure up ideas of the interpreter not really being there or being removed from the situation. Even if they are physically removed, they are still very much a part of the communication process. 

So, at Nimdzi, we coined a catch-all term: Virtual Interpreting Technology or VIT

To provide an understanding of what types of interpreting falls under this umbrella term, and how they differ from one another, the next sections will discuss the three ways in which virtual interpreting can be performed or delivered: over-the-phone interpreting (OPI), video remote interpreting (VRI), and remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI).

Three ways in which virtual interpreting can be performed or delivered: over-the-phone interpreting (OPI), video remote interpreting (VRI), and remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI).

Over-the-phone-interpreting (OPI)

Over-the-phone interpreting is by far the oldest remote interpreting solution. Different sources report different dates for when it was first used, but it is likely that it started in the 70s or 80s. As the name suggests, OPI refers to two or more speakers communicating via phone, with an interpreter logged into the phone line. The interpreter interprets consecutively. 

This can be done via a standard landline phone, mobile phone, or an online platform with call capability. The speakers can be in the same location and pass the phone with the interpreter back and forth or they can be in different locations and connect via a conference call. Hospitals also often have a dual handset phone so that the healthcare provider and the patient can listen at the same time. 

OPI is mostly used by emergency services and hotlines, but also for regular consultations in hospitals and in police stations. Businesses can use OPI for conference calls. 

Video remote interpreting (VRI)

For video remote interpreting users and interpreters are connected via audio and video. Depending on the VRI solution, users and interpreters either connect via an online platform with video calling capability, or via a mobile app. In hospitals, we also often find special tablets provided by the VIT company that are directly logged into their platform, so that video interpreters are accessible at the click of a button. These tablets are usually on a special stand that healthcare workers can roll from one room to another, providing a convenient, portable solution. The interpreters again perform their duties consecutively.

VRI is used in hospitals but also by businesses for conference calls. In addition, some VRI providers target individual consumers, such as travelers who can use their app on the go.

Remote simultaneous interpreting

Remote simultaneous interpreting directly comes out of the field of conference interpreting. There are different use cases but they all have one thing in common and that is that the interpreters perform their job remotely and in simultaneous mode.

At onsite conferences, the audience can usually download the RSI provider’s app to listen to the interpretation on their mobile phones. The interpreters generally log into the RSI provider’s online platform where they can receive the speakers’ audio and also a video feed of the conference. 

RSI is further used for web conferencing and webinars. A major advantage of RSI is that interpreters, speakers, and listeners do not all need to be in the same place. That being said, some solutions simply remove the need for costly interpreting equipment while all parties are still onsite.

Overview

Below is a brief summary of how OPI, VRI, and RSI differ from one another.

OPIVRIRSI
Main featuresAudio only, and consecutiveAudio + video, and consecutiveAudio for listeners, audio + video for interpreters, simultaneous
How is it done?Landline or smartphone, dual handset phone, or call via online platformOnline platform, mobile app, special portable tablets in hospitalsOnline platform
Who is it for?Emergency services, hospitals, police stations, conference calls for businesses, call centersHospitals, conference calls for businesses, individual travelersOnsite conferences, web conferencing, webinars, business meetings

Nimdzi Finger Food is the bite-sized and free to sample insight you need to fuel your decision-making today.

If you are looking for more information on virtual interpreting technology, check out our VIT Feature Explorer, or contact us today to start exploring our library of interpreting publications.
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