Using a TV remote control to navigate the on-screen interface is tough enough when you can see the screen. Just imagine if you couldn’t see it.
Comcast today announced a new technology that it’s calling “the nation’s first talking TV interface,” a Voice Guidance feature for the company’s Xfinity X1 cable platform that uses an automated voice to help visually impaired people find and select programs.
I’ve been testing a preview of the technology on my X1 box this week, and it works well. The automated voice leads the user through the interface, explaining which buttons to press on the remote, and how to find them. Here’s a video of me navigating my TV for a quick look at how it works.
Comcast says this will roll out to all of its X1 customers in the next few weeks. The company is also working on a voice-enabled remote control, the XR-11, that will let users press a button to speak commands. It’s also slated for release later this year.
The new accessibility initiatives follow Comcast’s hiring in 2012 of Tom Wlodkowski, who is blind, as its as vice president of audience.
“The talking guide is as much about usability as it is about accessibility,” said Wlodkowski in a statement. “We think about accessibility from the design of a product all the way through production and this feature is the result of years of work by our team including customer research, focus groups and industry partnerships. For people like me who are blind, this new interface opens up a whole new world of options for watching TV.”