Comcast Takes Break From Stifling Competition, Builds Blind Accessible Cable Box

Saying nice things about companies such as Comcast becomes an increasingly difficult task on a daily basis, largely thanks to the efforts of companies such as Comcast. But credit where it’s due, this sounds pretty damn amazing and I want one very much. X1 TALKS: COMCAST LAUNCHES INDUSTRY’S FIRST VOICE GUIDED TV INTERFACE

Comcast today announced the industry’s first voice-enabled television user interface, a solution that will revolutionize the way its Xfinity TV customers, especially those who are blind or visually impaired, navigate the X1 platform. The “talking guide” features a female voice that reads aloud selections like program titles, network names and time slots as well as DVR and On Demand settings.  The feature will be available to all X1 customers in the next few weeks.

Before we go any further, I should note that today equals November 12th, 2014 and therefore next few weeks should equal has been available for a while now.

About 19 million U.S. households have at least one member with a disability and according to the U.S. Census, there are 8.1 million people with a visual disability.  In 2012, Comcast hired Tom Wlodkowski as Vice President of Audience to focus on the usability of the company’s products and services by people with disabilities.

“The talking guide feature will enable all of our customers to experience the X1 platform in a new way, and give our blind and visually impaired customers the freedom to independently explore and navigate thousands of shows and movies.  We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible in the accessibility space and we are thrilled to have Tom and his team leading the charge.”
The talking guide “speaks” what’s on the screen as the viewer navigates the “Guide,” “Saved,” “On Demand,” and “Settings” sections of X1 and includes details like individual program descriptions and ratings from Common Sense Media and Rotten Tomatoes that help viewers decide what to watch.  Future versions of the feature will include functionality within the “Search” section of X1 and additional personalization settings like rate of speech.
“The talking guide is as much about usability as it is about accessibility,” said Mr. Wlodkowski. “We think about accessibility from the design of a product all the way through production and this feature is the result of years of work by our team including customer research, focus groups and industry partnerships. For people like me who are blind, this new interface opens up a whole new world of options for watching TV.”
X1 customers will be able to activate the talking guide on their existing set top box by tapping the “A” button twice on their remote control.  The feature also can be turned on via the “accessibility settings” within the main settings menu.

Here’s a promo video for the system, complete with a clip or two of it in action jammed in amongst much self-congratulation.

But like I said, a bit of self-congratulation is justified in this case.

If any of you has tried this out, what did you think? And if anyone from Rogers is reading, you guys are working on one of your own, aren’t you?

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