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NPR Seeks Manufacturers for Specialized Radios

 It also plans more HD Radio power increase tests; meanwhile, Rarey moves to NPR Labs 

NPR Labs was at CES looking for manufacturers to make units for captioned radio, braille and blackboard radios and radio reading service receivers.

Dice has made a radio reading service receiver prototype and at least one manufacturer is interested in that effort, I’m told. We saw the Dice prototype at the fall NAB Radio Show and it was in several booths at CES.

Blackboard radio is an interesting concept. The idea is bringing school to the kids (instead of the other way around) in Africa using a solar-powered or wind-up radio. The teacher uses an electronic “white board” and that board image (and audio) is transmitted to the radio using an RDS subcarrier.

I’ve written that NPR plans follow-up drive testing with member stations as well as Minnesota Public Radio stations to pinpoint the best levels for an FM IBOC power increase. At CES I learned they also plan to test the concept of whether masking elements in the car affect someone’s perception of the audio. The drive-around tests in Baltimore County, Md., are planned for February-March, with the plan to bring results to the spring NAB.

NPR Labs also has a new face, Rich Rarey — new anyway in the lab; he’s the former master control supervisor of NPR (and a contributor to Radio World). As manager of Strategic Technology Applications for the lab, one of his main tasks is the aggregated story project, in which the radio aggregates related stories and caches them for the listener, sort of like TiVo for radio. Rarey remains “on-call” for emergencies in master control at NPR through the inaugural.

Though NPR Labs added Rarey, it also lost a position in the round of recent job cuts. Jan Andrews senior engineer for field testing position was let go; however, I hear rumors there’s a possibility that he could return.