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Talking Digital TV System World First

Author: RNIB

Published: 2009-09-02

Synopsis and Key Points:

On-screen text such as TV program guides digital displays and menus are set to be brought to life with the power of speech.

Main Digest

Millions of people worldwide are set to gain an improved experience of TV thanks to a collaboration between The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and leading digital technology companies to develop the world's first "talking" technology - which will reach the market later this year.

Ocean Blue Software has developed the world's first "talking" digital TV technology for set top boxes and televisions, in conjunction with UK charity, RNIB.

Millions of people worldwide are set to gain an improved experience of TV thanks to a collaboration between The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and leading digital technology companies to develop the world's first 'talking' technology - which will reach the market later this year.

UK and Hong Kong-based Ocean Blue Software formed a consortium, consisting of ST-Microelectronics and TW Electronics, to create the world's first talking set top box solution for the RNIB.

On-screen text such as TV program guides, digital displays and menus are set to be brought to life with the power of speech thanks to the new "talking" technology. It is hoped it will be adapted across the consumer technology market, offering real benefits to millions of people with sight problems and different forms of impairment around the world.

The technology breakthrough has been nominated IABM Design Awards Candidate 2009. The IABM received over 70 submissions for the Design Award this year and selected the "talking" TV technology as one of the Top 10 most innovative in design.

"We are absolutely thrilled to have been shortlisted for the prestigious award," commented Ocean Blue Software CEO Ken Helps. "Ocean Blue constantly strives to develop innovative solutions for the digital TV industry, so we are very pleased with the nomination and look forward to the awards ceremony next month at IBC Amsterdam."

With the digital switchover upon us, this new technology can be utilized to deliver accessibility benefits to both those with sight problems and sighted people. It is compatible with consumer products, such as televisions, that have screen-based menu systems and converts on-screen text into speech output.

Enabling people to interact in a meaningful way with electronic products will significantly help those with certain disabilities as Steve Tyler; the RNIB's Head of Innovation and Disability Access Services is keen to highlight: "We are really excited by this development as it has the potential to significantly improve the lives of nearly 8 million people in the UK alone. These include the blind, visually impaired, deaf, severely dyslexic and the elderly, who can all benefit from this advance in technology."

This view is shared by Helps "Digital technology is moving fast and there is increasing pressure on manufacturers to deliver products at the lowest cost resulting in minimal specification and no consideration for accessibility. This ground-breaking project allows technology to aid impaired people and provide them with an enhanced lifestyle, this has been achieved through a close and effective working relationship with the RNIB, and Ocean Blue is proud of its involvement and contribution."

A great deal of exploration and research has taken place to ensure that users of the product can easily adapt it to suit their individual needs. The user interface includes multiple, high-contrast color schemes, variable sized fonts and extensive help features. Consumers will be able to easily control the way the audio information is spoken to them, with the ability to change the level of speech and the language, offering global appeal. All of this can be controlled using a remote control console designed by RNIB working with TW Electronics, with ease of use in mind.

The interface will provide an overall better user experience and independent research already suggests that its features will undoubtedly have a mass-market appeal.

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