Wednesday, February 22, 2006.
A stand-alone device that provides access to selected news and entertainment audio web content without the need for high IT skills is planned for a launch later this year by a UK-based assistive technology charity.
The 'SpeakOn', developed by a-technic, will be about the size of a digital TV set-top box, and plug in to a phone socket to play its output through any standard speaker, TV or hi- fi. It will use software developed by a-technic trustee Professor Isaac Porat from the University of Manchester to present choices of content and download it automatically from the internet.
Content offered will include DAISY-formatted books, MP3 music files, internet radio stations, podcasts and other web site content including online newspapers. Users will not need to access web sites directly, making the system well-suited for vision-impaired users without high IT skills.
"You won't realise you're going to a web site," said A-Technic founder and chairman Chris Mairs. "If you select the Guardian web site, under the covers [content] is whizzed off the internet but users won't know that."
The device will be operated by a simple keypad similar to that of a phone. Four raised navigation buttons arranged around a moveable nob will allow users to scroll and select their choice, for example tracks from a music playlist or articles from an online newspaper.
Subscription deals are still being sought for music download and audio newspaper content, but once there are in place the device will be released at a price of no more than 500 pounds, Mairs said.
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