The RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) and TVonics have teamed up to create the DTR-HD500; a Freeview+ HD set top box that sends voice commands through the TV speakers, helping blind and partially sighted viewers navigate the EPG.
The TVonics DTR-HD500 box uses the IVONA TTS (Text-To-Speech) technology which you can see in action here.
Those of you with Android phones can also download INOVA TTS apps from Google Play.
As well as providing navigation instructions for the programme guide, the TVonics DTR-HD500 will let you enable audio description of the action taking place on the screen. There’s also ‘beginner’ and ‘expert’ settings which let you reduce the amount of voice prompts you need as you get more comfortable with the settings.
Costing £179.95, the TVonics DTR-HD500 will come with the speech software pre-installed when bought directly from the RNIB. If you buy it elsewhere (John Lewis will be stocking it) then you’ll need to download and install the software yourself from TVonics’ website.
The user can also enable audio description to verbally describe the action taking place on screen. As users become familiar with the text-to-speech technology and are able to discover content they can reduce the level of guidance needed, changing the settings from ‘beginner’ to ‘expert’.
RNIB has tailored the IVONA text-to-speech technology to the TVonics DTR-HD500’s existing interface and EPG. The product hardware and design has remained unchanged from the box already in the market and the text-to-speech technology is available for free via a software download. For new customers, the product can be purchased directly through RNIB’s website where they will receive the software fully installed and ready to use, along with product support and advice on how to use the product and the text-to-speech technology.
Going forwards, new products manufactured by TVonics will have the text-to-speech software installed. Those with the existing DTR-Z500HD can also download the software for free from the RNIB and TVonics websites.
Other features and functions of the DTR-HD500 includes support for 1080p HD, standard def upscaling to 1080p, series recording, the ability to record 2 channels at the same time and a 500GB hard drive.
UPDATE: Hear the TVonics DTR-500HD in action in the RNIB’s specially-produced videos.