Comcast Unveils Voice-Activated Features for the Blind

They'll soon be available to users of the X1 set-top cable box.

Comcast comes under so much criticism for everything that sometimes it’s good to remember that the company does some cool stuff, too.

This week, for example, the company unveiled a “talking guide” for blind users of its X1 set-top cable box. (See Comcast’s video, above, for a demonstration.) Yes: Blind folks enjoy television, too.

PC Mag:

Comcast has added new features for the blind via a voice-enabled TV user interface.

Rolling out to Xfinity TV X1 customers over the next few weeks, the “talking guide” reads aloud selections like program titles, network names, and time slots, as well as DVR and On Demand settings.

“Television is universally loved, and we want everyone to be able to enjoy it,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. “The talking guide feature will enable all of our customers to experience the X1 platform in a new way, and give our blind and visually impaired customers the freedom to independently explore and navigate thousands of shows and movies.”

CBS Philly:

“I can navigate the TV listings just like you’d be able to,” says Tom Wlodkowski, Comcast’s vice president of audience. He’s also blind.

“I can schedule and play back DVR recordings independently, without requiring my wife or son — both of whom are sighted — to help navigate,” he explains.

Tech Times:

The talking TV guide was born inside the Comcast Accessibility Lab, the same division that helped the telecommunications company streamline its closed-captioning access to a single button. The lab also maintains a help and support library online, which offers users a single location to find out more about the company’s accessibility services.

“We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible in the accessibility space and we are thrilled to have Tom and his team leading the charge,” says Comcast CEO and Chairman Brain Roberts.

Comcast says it plans to further its efforts in serving individual who have disabilities by launching an awareness initiative in conjunction with service groups and nonprofit organizations. The company says it will further explore voice guidance and other features that make entertainment more inclusive.

We’ll get back to discussing the issues challenging Comcast soon. Today, we’ll let the company take a victory lap.

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