Senator Stephan Conroy announced the commercial release of a talking set top box that will aid and encourage the visually impaired to use digital television.
“For the first time in Australia, vision impaired people will be able to enjoy significantly enhanced benefits of digital television,” said Conroy.
The talking set top box will read out onscreen menus, electronic program guides, and settings of their television.
The box uses text-to-speech technology to describe programs, menu items, and menu layouts. It benefits from a ‘key-learn’ feature for the remote control and can have its speech style changed.
“This kind of technology has been developed in other countries, however, no talking set-top box was available in the Australian market until now,” Conroy said.
“Today’s announcement coincides with Queensland Disability Action Week and marks a significant achievement for the Government and industry to make digital TV accessible to all Australians.”
In developing the new set top box the government worked closely with the industry and tested the technology in the Household Assistance Scheme rollout in regional Victoria.
“The talking set-top box trial was designed to test this innovative technology with vision impaired Victorians. I am delighted to see this initiative result in the commercial release of a talking set-top box to the broader Australian community.”
The Household Assistance Scheme provides free digital TV help for maximum aged pensioners and has assisted 50,000 eligible households throughout South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.
With the trials success, the government is now pursuing operational and funding requirements to have the talking set top box incorporated under the scheme.
“Australia is striding forward in the global migration to digital TV with 82 per cent of households across the nation already converted to digital TV,” Senator Conroy said.
“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that no-one is left behind in the switch to digital-only television.”