It sounds obvious, but for the first time, over-the-air HD Radio can carry talk radio with closed-captioned metadata, so that the hearing impaired can enjoy the same talk radio programming that others can.
From what I can tell, the signal will be compatible with many recent HD Radio receivers, so you don't need a special box. The Kenwood in the picture is a proof-of-concept; the actual first-ever closed-captioned broadcast will take place on Wednesday. Leave it to the progressives at NPR to come up with it, teaming with Harris Corporation and Towson University to develop the delivery mechanism and user interface. Of course, if it takes off, deaf right-wingers will finally get their fix of conservative hate talk, too.
NPR, Harris Corporation and Towson University Launch Global Effort to Make Radio Accessible to Hearing and Sight Impaired First Over-The-Air Transmission from Special CES Station LAS VEGAS, January 8, 2008 - (LVCC S227) —- NPR, Harris Corporation and Towson University today announced a new initiative to make radio more accessible to the hundreds of millions of hearing and visually impaired people around the world. At a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the three organizations announced the global accessible radio technology initiative and provided the first live demonstration of the accessible radio technology. The group also announced a new research center for developing future technologies on the campus of Towson University near Baltimore, MD. Additional plans call for the establishment of an international consortium of equipment manufacturers, broadcasters and other organizations to help foster broad adoption of the initiative. The initiative will be spearheaded by the three founding organizations and will leverage cutting- edge HD Radio™ technology to enable hearing-impaired people to "see" live radio content on specially equipped receivers by applying television closed-captioning processes to radio broadcasts. The technology also will provide audio cues and voice prompts, as well as advanced radio reading services, for those visually impaired and blind.
"Digital radio technology makes it possible—for the first time—to serve the sensory impaired," says
Mike Starling, vice president and chief technology officer of NPR. "Beyond developing the
technology, this initiative will ensure the accessibility of these radio services at minimal costs."
During the press conference, the organizations showcased the first over-the-air transmission of the
accessible radio technology using a signal from WX3NPR, a special temporary station authorized
by the FCC for the live broadcast. Attendees at the press conference watched the text transcript of
the NPR flagship morning news magazine "Morning Edition" on the HD Radio receiver's viewing
screen, which is what a hearing-impaired listener will see using the technology. Additionally, the
demonstration carried a digital radio reading service that will assist the vi sually impaired with daily
readings of current books, newspapers and magazines.
Following the demonstration, the participating organizations unveiled details for the International
Center for Accessible Radio Technology (ICART), which will be headquartered at Towson
University in Towson, Md. Towson will house the primary administrative and academic research
office for the initiative, with NPR Labs in Washington, D.C., providing technology R&D and software
development, and Harris Corporation supplying transmission and research support at its radio
broadcast technology center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Members of the global initiative went on to detail plans to further study and understand the
challenges faced by the sensory-impaired population in accessing radio broadcasts, and develop
methodologies to address those issues through cutting-edge technologies. To ensure that the
effort represents the widest range of participants and fosters the broadest possible adoption,
organizers said they will work to bring together policymakers, broadcasters, transmission
equipment companies and receiver manufacturers from around the world. Presently, the initiative
has more than a dozen members, representing virtually every aspect of the "microphone to
loudspeaker" chain: broadcasters, network content providers, infrastructure and transmission
equipment companies, and receiver manufacturers. In addition to founding members NPR, Harris
and Towson University, specific member organizations include iBiquity Digital Corporation, Delphi,
NDS, Radiosophy, Helen Keller Institute, National Center for Accessible Media/WGBH, Northern
Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons, and the United Nations Global
Alliance for ICT and Development.
NPR, Harris and Towson will jointly determine strategic direction of the organization, with
assistance from the initiative's full membership. NPR will provide much of the content, Harris will
provide much of the transmission-related technologies, and Towson will provide research into the
needs of the sensory-disabled population and will house the primary ICART facility on its campus.
"We're working very closely with radio stations around the world to ensure they have the right
technical infrastructure in place for this initiative," said Howard Lance, chairman, president and
chief executive officer of Harris Corporation. "The new HD Radio transmission systems we're
installing are tailor-made for this effort, as their digital capabilities will make it relatively easy for
stations to transmit live textual transcripts to HD Radio receivers."
"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 Dr.
Ellyn Sheffield, assistant professor of psychology at Towson and co-director of ICART. "There is no
question this initiative will have a profound impact on the quality of millions of people's lives.
Finally, sensory-disabled individuals will have access to all radio programming, as well as radio
emergency alerts and vital disaster recovery information."
HD Radio enables station operators to split their broadcasts up into multiple channels, providing
several CD-quality channels for their audiences. Through this accessible radio initiative, a small
amount of the total data capacity will be used to carry textual data that will be shown live on a
screen on new versions of HD Radio receivers, essentially providing a closed-captioning transcript
of live broadcasts for the deaf. Initially, the closed-captioning text will be created by live, court-
reporting-type captioners at individual stations and networks. Ultimately, the initiative is hoping to
leverage advanced speech-to-text translation software applications that one day allow expansion
of captioning across the radio dial. Specially equipped HD Radio receivers are in development with
several features to provide the visually impaired audience with better access to broadcasts, such
as audio prompts that notify which direction the tuner is going, what channel the radio is on, and
larger, easier-to-read text on the radios.
More than 1,500 radio stations are currently broadcasting in HD Radio in the United States. Over
half of the CPB-qualified stations have been awarded HD Radio conversion grants by the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting. According to current estimates, by 2010, all 825 public radio
stations should be broadcasting digitally.
More information on the initiative can be found at www.i-cart.net
Since its launch in 1970, NPR has evolved into a leading multimedia company, award-winning
primary news provider and dominant force in American life. NPR produces and/or distributes 1500
hours of programming weekly, including more than 150 hours of news, i nformation, talk,
entertainment and cultural shows for the 800-plus NPR Member stations around the country,
attracting 26.5 million listeners weekly. NPR also programs two 24/7 channels for Sirius satellite
radio and five 24/7 music multicast channels for digital HD Radio, having served as an industry
leader in HD research and development; additionally it produces nearly 90 podcasts, making it the
biggest podcaster among American media companies. www.NPR.org offers extensive original
video and audio content, hourly newscasts, concerts and free audio streaming of current and
archived NPR programs.
About Harris Corporation
Harris is an international communications and information technology company serving
government and commercial markets in more than 150 countries. Headquartered in Melbourne,
Florida, the company has annual revenue of over $4 billion and 16,000 employees — including
nearly 7,000 engineers and scientists. Harris is dedicated to developing best -in-class assured
communications™ products, systems, and services. Additional information about Harris
Corporation is available at www.harris.com.
About Towson University
Founded in 1866, Towson University is recognized among the nation's best regional public
universities, offering more than 100 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in the
liberal arts and sciences, and applied professional fields. Located in suburban Towson, eight miles
north of Baltimore, the university's beautifully landscaped, 328-acre setting offers a pleasant
environment for study and a diverse campus life, as well as easy access to a wealth of university
and community resources. With nearly 20,000 students, Towson University is the second-largest
public university in Maryland. As a metropolitan university, Towson combines research-based
learning with practical application. Its many interdisciplinary partnerships with public and private
organizations throughout Maryland provide opportunities for research, internships and jobs. The
university's radio station, WTMD, will soon convert to digital format and will serve as the initial
testing ground for the initiative. Towson University is a founding member of the Coalition of Urban
and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU); TU President Robert Caret holds the office of president.
Additional information can be found at www.towson.edu.
HD Radio™ is a proprietary trademark of iBiquity Digital Corp.