06 gennaio 2008

La radio (digitale) anche per non udenti

Al CES di Las Vegas Harris Corporation e National Public Radio presentano i primi prototipi di radio per sordi, con l'obiettivo di rilasciare entro l'anno i primi modelli commerciali, stipulando anche i necessari accordi con le stazioni. Gli apparecchi utilizzano il sistema di radio digitale HD Radio e un canale testuale utilizzato per trasmettere le informazioni di "sottotitolatura" (in americano, closed captioning) che poi appaiono su un display integrato. Non c'è niente da fare, per applicazioni di questo tipo i sistemi digitali sono un toccasana, il Radiotext dell'FM analogica non riuscirebbe a star dietro ai volumi di throughput necessari, a meno di non ripensarlo completamente. La "radio da leggere" è stata sviluppata con il coinvolgimento della Towson University, dove è stato allestito l'International Center for Accessible Radio Technology (ICART (un sito Web c'è già ma è ancora vuoto). Ecco come presenta il servizio The Business Monthly. Il comunicato ufficiale è stato riportato da Gizmodo.

HD Radio Broadcasts to the Sensory Impaired

By Reed Hellman, STAFF WRITER

To some listeners, it's just the radio. They play it in the car and maybe sometimes at home to add some background music or news to their average day.
However, 600 million hearing and visually impaired people worldwide are cut off from radio, its programming and the critical information routinely broadcast over the airwaves.
At a press conference at the upcoming annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, National Public Radio (NPR), Harris Corp. and Towson University will announce their Global Accessible Radio Technology Initiative, an international effort to develop HD radios for the deaf and blind.
"In the past, radio has been an audio medium," said Jim Burke, a media relations representative from Harris. "This left out the hearing impaired and blind. They have been shut off from the medium. Radio is a very popular medium and also a source of critical information."

Signal Splitting

HD radio enables broadcast stations to split their signals into multiple channels, each providing CD-quality transmissions. One of those channels can carry text that appears on a screen, providing a type of closed-captioning transcript for the hearing impaired. Some systems can carry a digital radio reading service for the visually impaired, presenting current books, newspapers and magazines.
"Currently most radios stations broadcast an analog signal," said Burke. "A digital signal enables radio to deliver things over the air that couldn't have been delivered with the analog signals, like closed captioning."
The developers are also working to present text for the radio's controls, appearing on the screen, large enough for visually impaired listeners to see. Sound prompts can inform the blind which station they're on and whether they're going up or down the dial.
Ultimately, the initiative wants to leverage advanced speech-to-text translation software applications that enable captioning across the radio dial.
"There is tremendous need for accessible radio for sensory-impaired people, including the deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind, visually impaired, print impaired, deaf/blind and mobility impaired," said Ellyn Sheffield, assistant professor of psychology at Towson and co-director of the International Center for Accessible Radio Technology (ICART). "There is no question this initiative will have a profound impact on the quality of millions of people's lives."
In a collaborative effort, Towson University created the Applied Research Center to make radio more accessible with broader capabilities, thus "transforming [a] radio into a different device," said Burke.
Harris Corp. has a 50-year history and brings its corporate experience as an equipment manufacturer to the table, as it currently supplies 60% of the TV equipment used in the U.S. Harris has been developing radio applications for 10 years and has worked with NPR to develop next-generation technology.
NPR has a radio lab in its Washington, D.C., location and Towson University has worked with the network to establish the school's research center. For this initiative, Harris and Towson have merged around NPR.

Reaching the Market

The first prototype "accessible" radios, demonstrated at CES, may reach the market by "the coming year," according to Burke. Currently, 1,500 stations nationwide broadcast HD radio signals.
In addition, more than half of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting stations have received HD radio conversion grants and, by current estimates, all 825 public radio stations should be broadcasting digitally by 2010.
The plan at the press conference at CES was to showcase the first over-the-air transmission of the accessible radio technology - the real-time text transcript of NPR's Morning Edition as it appeared on the HD radio's viewing screen. Afterward, the participating organizations were to unveil details for ICART, which will be headquartered at Towson University.
NPR, Harris and Towson will jointly determine strategic direction. NPR will provide much of the content and technology, research and development, and software development from their labs in Washington, with Harris supplying transmission and research support.

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