Tuesday, July 11

New iPod Might Open Up Opportunities

Greetings. The new iPod model might just open up some new and exciting opportunities for consumer electronics. The following is taken from an email from the Gui-Talk list, from the NFB Net group of lists. What's most interesting about the article is that in no place does it mention the benefits for the blind or low vision population that has struggled to use, and in many cases wanted to use, the iPod. The fact that it doesn't mention us means that the sighted designers of this new model probably weren't thinking of us. That could be good or bad, but I'm hoping its good. Since if they're not thinking of the blind, and they're making a mainstream device audio accessible to sighted users, we very well might benefit too. Consider Tell Me (800-555-8355). That's a totally audio service that was made for the general public but that the blind can benefit from and use just as well. Hopefully, this trend will spread to other products. I'm not saying we shouldn't be apart of the design of products. Rather, if the sighted can design a device that is accessible to us as well as the sighted user, then why not jump on board?

At any rate, here's the article. As always, my apologies for any formatting errors. Enjoy.

This article is taken from

Scotland on Sunday
Sun 9 Jul 2006
Alive and clicking: the latest iPod will talk...

Alive and clicking: the latest iPod will talk the listener through
the songs and
bands on the menu.

Apple pips its rivals with the iPod that talks

FROM Walkman to Talkman. Not content with changing the world's
music-listening habits,
Apple has come up with another innovation: the talking iPod.

A new generation of machines will use sophisticated software to
convert the names
of bands, albums and individual tracks into recognisable speech.

The new iPod will tell you what it is about to play, removing the
need for users
to look at the screen while selecting music, and making the device
safer and easier
to use while driving, cycling or in badly-lit locations.

Crucially, the talking machines could give the iPod a badly-needed
new competitive
edge in the hotly-contested digital music player market.

The iconic machines were last week reported to have lost some of
their sheen, with
consumers following a series of technical problems and controversy
surrounding the
working conditions of those who make them. To make matters worse,
software giant
Microsoft is said to be working on its own iPod-bashing digital music player.

Apple has flatly refused to comment on the design, but a patent
lodged by the company
in the United States makes clear the sixth generation of iPods will
be able to convert
those famous text menus into speech.

The ingenious system will rely on home PC processing power and clever
software. The
computer being used to download tracks will analyse each album title,
song name and
artist and convert them into sound files. These will be loaded into
the iPod, along
with the song files.

Users of the music players will still operate the Clickwheel as
normal, but hear
the names of songs and bands through their headphones.

The patent reveals the idea is driven largely by safety considerations.
It states: "A user will have difficulty navigating the interface in
'eyes-busy' situations.
"Such activities include, for example, driving an automobile,
exercising and crossing
the street."

The patent also makes clear that text-to-speech technology is likely
to spread to
other hand-held electronic devices such as mobile phones and palm-top

The move is expected to spark a new digital player war as competing
attempt to cram more and more features into their digital music
players in a bid
to keep up.

iPods have recently begun losing favour with consumers, amid claims
of poor working
conditions at a Chinese factory where the devices are made.

Microsoft is reported to be planning a digital music player with
wireless internet
capabilities, removing the need for a PC to download music.

The firm is believed to be keen to break Apple's stranglehold on the
download market
with its iTunes software.

The iPod and iTunes enjoy market share of about 80% in the US and the
UK, as well
as more than half the online music market in Europe as a whole.

Sony is also believed to be working on a wireless product that can
download music
and video broadcasts in venues such as concert halls and even shops.
The firm filed
a patent in 2004 which states that compressed files could be sent to
with footage from the concert they had just seen.

Converting text into speech has been a major goal of the computer
industry for decades,
but early versions of the technology struggled with difficult words and names.
It also requires formidable computer processing power to carry out
the difficult

But Apple says its system will break down words in a new way that
makes it possible
to pronounce perfectly even the most obscure song titles and artist names.
It also proposes using "voice talent" - such as famous actors - to
make the speech
more human and add in the celebrity factor.

The patent also proposes using different voice "characteristics",
such as gender,
for different sections of the iPod menus.

Professor Steve Renals, a speech technology expert at Edinburgh
University, said:
"It is possible to create very high quality text-to-voices these days.
"We have seen some already used in mobile phones, but it has
struggled in the past
with difficult words and names. The technology is much better now and
can cope with
most things."

Safety experts have raised concerns over cyclists, pedestrians and
motorists being
involved in accidents when they are distracted by their digital music devices.

Last month, a teenager from Preston was killed while listening to his
iPod on his
bike when he collided with a tractor. Another teenager, Kathryn
Thomas, caused a
fatal road accident last year when she took her eyes off the road to
show a friend
how to use her iPod. Roger Vincent, spokesman for the Royal Society
for the Prevention
of Accidents, said: "If people don't need to take their eyes off the
road and hands
off the wheel then there are clear benefits to that.

"Provided there is a sensible approach and the technology is used in
a way that it
is intended, it could make using such devices far safer.

"There are concerns, though, about the isolation from surroundings
that wearing earphones
creates, and this can cause serious accidents, particularly among cyclists."

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting article! It's always exciting when technology we benefit from also gets mainstream interest. Have you explored the Rock Box solution for existing iPods? It's an open-source firmware replacement that includes text-to-speech features. I currently struggle with a lighted magnifier to use my 30 gig iPod. I'm wondering if I should risk installing third party firmware, or wait for this new version from Apple. Anyway, I'm extremely interested in this kind of thing, so if you want to discuss it further (or anyone else out there), feel free to email me at robinettl@comcast.net