AT&T has released an app for U-verse TV designed for people with vision and hearing impairment and other disabilities that lets subscribers control the TV with their voice or hand gestures.
The U-verse Easy Remote App, currently available for iPhone and iPad devices, lets subscribers change the channel by saying the show title or channel number. It also recognizes other spoken commands, such as channel up, channel down, fast forward, rewind, replay, pause, play and record.
AT&T claimed U-verse is the first major TV service to let customers use voice commands to control their TVs. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console, with the Kinect attachment, also provides voice- and gesture-activated commands.
Other features of the Easy Remote app include: multiple screen-color, button and font-size choices; gesture commands; support for iPhone’s VoiceOver text-to-speech app to read aloud TV show and channel information in the programming guide; and one-touch access to closed captioning.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve the U-verse TV experience, and we knew this was an area where we could take a big step forward and use our IPTV platform to deliver a better and more accessible TV watching experience for seniors and customers with hearing and vision impairments,” said Maria Dillard, vice president of U-verse and video products in AT&T Home Solutions.
The voice-control functions of the Easy Remote app are based on AT&T’s Watson speech-recognition technology, which uses natural-language processing to recognize spoken words.
The telco’s marketing group and AT&T Labs began working on a prototype of the app in August 2011. The company also ran the concept by the AT&T Advisory Panel on Access and Aging (AAPAA) for feedback, and then tested Easy Remote with eight different users of varying ages and abilities through AT&T’s Human Factors Group.
“Most Americans rely on their television as a critical source of news and entertainment and it is important that these resources be made accessible for all users,” Larry Goldberg, director of WGBH's Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), said in a statement supplied by AT&T. “It is great to see an app like Easy Remote apply many of the universal design features that improve access for customers both with and without disabilities.”
To use Easy Remote, customers must subscribe to both U-verse TV and U-verse High-Speed Internet. The app is available as a free download in Apple’s iTunes Store.
A 60-second demo video for AT&T’s Easy Remote is available here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=oz51-TEgFZw.