NPR Labs and the IAAIS are working on a way for the visually impaired to listen to their radio reading service when and where they want to.
The intent is to make it easier for the visually impaired to hear their radio content when they want to, rather than having to listen in real time.
Think of it like TiVo for radio reading services, says NPR Labs Research Associate Kyle Evans, who pitched the project and is spearheading the three-year effort.
The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, a subset of the Department of Education, in November awarded NPR Labs a grant to develop the personalized audio information service for RRS listeners. NPR is providing additional resources directed toward the project in order to meet the timeline and deliver promised prototypes.
The idea involves the metadata in the HD Radio audio stream. Since the data portion of each stream is not “fully populated,” there’s enough overhead in the IBOC data stream to handle this use. This data activity could be part of a multicast channel of the audio information service, said NPR Vice President/Chief Technology Officer Mike Starling, also executive director of NPR Labs.
Using a special software program, individual stories in the audio would be “marked” so the receiver could recognize the beginning and end points. Audio to text software would “translate” enough of the piece so the receiver could know when the user pushes a button to gather all “dog” stories, for example, and buffer them for later listening.
Those stories would be aggregated, and the user could decide later which ones to listen to, said Evans. Users would set up a profile using a computer interface, he believes.
The project is in the beginning stages, though some software would be needed, probably in the HD-R importer, to handle the speech to text translation, he said. NPR Labs is working with stations to determine how to implement the necessary software.
In a world in which we’re deluged with information, visually impaired listeners are challenged in trying to keep up with news, Evans said. “A device like this could speed up the amount of content they could process.”
— Leslie Stimson