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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

World’s First Talking TV Now a Reality

by Andy Sennitt

TVs that can talk to their owners are now a reality thanks to British high-tech company, Ocean Blue Software. Expected in UK stores by the end of the summer, the company’s low cost text-to-speech technology, dubbed “Talk@TV”, is being built into set top boxes from Korean company, Arion Technology, which will be branded and distributed by major retailers in the UK from August.

The new set top boxes are like regular Freeview or satellite boxes, but will be able to talk to their blind or partially-sighted owners – advising, via speech technology, the TV programming schedule, for example what’s on and when. Owners will be able to adjust the speed and verbosity of the voice to suit their needs, choose to enlarge or reduce font sizes and change background and text colours. A re-designed and easy to use remote control will also be included.

The technology has been developed in partnership with digital TV chip giant, STMicroelectronics, whose processors lie at the heart of most TVs and set top boxes. Phase two of the development will introduce voice activation technology to allow owners to talk back to their TV sets – “channel up”, “channel down”, “volume up”.

Ocean Blue’s Talk@TV will be available in different languages and dialects; the UK version supports both the Scottish Gaelic and Welsh language for example. The technology behind Talk@TV is a derivative of the pioneering work and development between the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and Ocean Blue over the last three years. The development won an IABM Award for Excellence in Design and Innovation, was nominated for a Royal Television Society award and shortlisted for an IMS TV Innovation award in the USA.

The Arion Talking set top box will be available in a number of UK retailers.

(Source: Ocean Blue Software/Arion Technology)

After this article was posted, I received the following email:

It is neither the first or, if you believe "open" is better, the best. There is an open source project in Spain that has already released firmware for several decoders with TTS (in Spanish and English) and other accessibility features. You can read about it at http://www.inteco.es/TV_Interactiva_en/Accesibilidad_en_TV_en/Decodificador_accesible_en/ (in English) and download the firmware at http://www.inteco.es/TV_Interactiva_en/Accesibilidad_en_TV_en/Decodificador_accesible_en/software_en/.

(it is in Spanish but you can get Google to translate it).

It will also be sold by a number of set top box makers later this year.

Martin

1 comment:

Sean R said...

I applaud the sentiment of this sort of initiative, and I suppose we are fortunate that in this case the output is software and manufacturers can build it into their equipment.

I bring it up because by the time this sort of Freeview box hits stores, Freeview Plus and or HD boxes will have already taken over (you can pick up an older style Freeview box for under £20 GBP and they're going the way of the black and white television set).

Still, there's no denying that this is an eagerly awaited amalgamation of technologies that'll be of great benefit.

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