Video Remote Interpretation (VRI)

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Video Remote Interpretation (VRI)

Video Remote Interpretation became a popular modality thanks to technological breakthroughs that allowed interpreters to provide real-time services remotely, be it at a call center or directly from home. This adaptation, however, requires them to use special equipment, i.e., a headset and video camera, and perform the assignment in a relatively private, quiet space, without it needing to be a state-of-the-art studio. Early VRI requirements were associated with the supply of assistance for sign language interpreting (like ASL, most popular in the U.S.) allowing the hearing-impaired to communicate with other people either located in the same place or remotely via videoconferencing.

Fast Forward to Today

However, supply of video remote interpreting services found an exponential growth at the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the whole world went into lockdown, and there suddenly was an urgent need to communicate and work remotely.

The existing prior role of conference bridges was swiftly replaced by the use of better platforms offering more features to try to preserve productivity in teams that struggled to get adapted to the so-called “new normal.”

This is when the limited concept of the early days was quickly replaced by a broader one that started including interpreters working remotely, in any language combo, and not always with a need to be seen on video cam (as it is usually the case for webinars).

Remote Simultaneous or Remote Consecutive?

Besides the already prevalent VRI use to provide sign language interpreting services (like ASL VRI), the two main options of providing the service for other language combinations became possible to perform in a remote mode.

Whether to be used in a “new normal” or in our “next normal,” RSI has turned into a whole new chapter. Remote Simultaneous Interpretation has become trendy not only for educational institutions (providing webinars and imparting full programs remotely), but also for companies in every vertical with the need to ensure a seamless onboarding and ongoing training for employees globally and at all levels.

The other side of the coin, Consecutive Remote Interpretation, is here to stay as well, having proved useful to cover different sorts of needs such as for hearings and depositions, interviews, discussion groups, etc.

Is Video Mandatory?

Fostered by the pandemic, there is lots of literature being written about the different psycho-sociological aspects of communicating remotely. Let’s just say that VRI is usually the most suitable type of service.

Leaving aside its relevance for sign language services, it has been proven that communicating by video facilitates the process. On-site interpreters always underlined the importance of being able to look at the person they were providing the service for, and the same works for remote interpretation. Body language, as well as tone and the whole vibe perceived throughout an assignment all play a major role in achieving superior quality and creating the necessary empathy among participants.

Technology and Equipment

There is a whole gamut of platforms that can be used to provide VRI. There are proprietary developments based on secure and encrypted networks which connect users to a qualified interpreter.

There are also off-the-shelf solutions that are developing new features by the minute, with high competition in the market fostering innovation. Platforms like Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, Cisco WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc. offer different alternatives at different price points.

Interpreters mostly need to worry about having a good broadband Internet connection, a quiet environment, and a decent, comfortable headset to perform the job. More sophisticated equipment includes devices to communicate with the rest of the interpretation team in case they need to closely coordinate the supply of the service.

“Convenience” replaced the “P” standing for “Place” within the traditional marketing mix. And convenience can be provided by a computer, tablet, or even a smart phone in case of an emergency.

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More Accessible and Less Risky

At any rate, technical needs are far from the old, more sophisticated infrastructure that used to be needed to perform this type of service. This certainly has an impact on cutting down costs, which is making it more and more accessible by the day.

This is so not only in terms of the equipment but also in trimming all extra expenses like travel, parking, meals, commuting, etc., making the interpreters job much more efficient.

COVID-19 made us understand the importance of social distancing. Without us even noticing, VRI enabled social distancing way before the concept turned out to be so in vogue. The advantages of working with an on-site interpreter are retained while productivity is often ramped up, and health safety is well preserved.

On-demand Availability

Although the conventional booking of interpreters is still used more regularly, the possibility for on-demand VRI provides an additional level of flexibility and benefits. This means that clients can cover emergency needs for an interpreter within a few minutes, without needing to wait for Calendar Managers to line someone up, face inevitable commuting lead time, and the potential frustration brought by a no-show.

Flexibility, however, needs not be mistaken with the chance for interpreters to always jump from one assignment to another. Interpreters may need to take a break, get ready for the next job, take part in “gym sessions,” stay past the hour due to an extended Q&A, etc. This is why the service is traditionally quoted for a minimum of two hours, or even half or full days.

Compliance with the Strictest Verticals

Legal and healthcare may sound like potentially difficult verticals for VRI to be implemented. Quite the contrary, though, full compliance with security and privacy policies is still possible. For instance, interpreters used in a healthcare context will abide by HIPAA standards the same as if they were performing the job on-site. Legal interpreters can certainly be court-certified just as for on-site assignments. We can assure you that VRI is vertical-friendly!