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X1 Gets Its Voice - Multichannel

X1 Gets Its Voice

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People, sports fans in particular, have been known to talk to their TV. Thanks to some new technology developed by Comcast for its X1 platform, the TV now has the ability to talk back.

Following a small set of trials conducted over the summer, Comcast has introduced a “talking guide” for its X1 interface, bringing forth a feature tailored for customers who are blind, visually impaired or use English as a second language.

This new element, featuring a female voice and driven by Comcast’s cloud-powered user interface, reads aloud channel names, show titles, video-on-demand settings and even DVR commands as the customer navigates the guide with the X1’s standard remote control.

Future versions of the X1 talking guide will add search functionality and additional personalization settings that, for example, will allow the customer to determine the rate of speech, Comcast said.

Comcast demonstrated an early version of the talking guide at this year’s The Cable Show in May and started to test the feature with about 20 visually impaired customers in July. The American Council of the Blind participated in the trial.

Comcast plans to launch the talking guide commercially “in the next few weeks,” making it available to all X1 customers. Comcast revealed last month that it has deployed more than 5 million X1 boxes so far.

Billed as the industry’s first voice-guided TV interface, the X1 talking guide is a product of Comcast’s Accessibility Lab and arrives about two years after Comcast hired Tom Wlodkowski, the MSO’s vice president of audience and an exec who has been blind since birth, to focus on the usability of the company’s products and services by people with disabilities.

The talking guide is a “real game-changer for anyone who is blind and loves TV,” said Wlodkowski, who demonstrated the feature last week at Comcast’s corporate headquarters in Philadelphia.

Roughly 19 million U.S. homes have at least one resident with a disability, according to a recent American Housing Survey; 8.1 million people have a visual disability, according to U.S. Census data.

People, sports fans in particular, have been known to talk to their TV. Thanks to some new technology developed by Comcast for its X1 platform, the TV now has the ability to talk back.

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