Sunday, July 23, 2006

AOL CNN WGBH Online Initiative for the Deaf

Digital broadcasting to the Deaf takes a step forward in the United States where AOL is testing closed captions for streaming video online for TV news content from CNN in co-operation with TV station, WGBH and NEC Japan, through its NEC Foundation of America. The benefits should be useful to Asian broadcasters with online services.

The AOL closed captioning tests are to improve the online media experience for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The captioned content when fully implemented will be available through all AOL channels, which includes its subscriber network, service, web portal and video portal.

This is an advance on the previous service to the deaf, limited to on- screen captions for CNN News Updates.

From now on, AOL is manually captioning broadcaster CNN's content. This will expand to add current events and entertainment. Additional video content will be added over the coming months.

Similar to closed captioning for traditional television, AOL captions are displayed directly beneath the video window and correspond to the audio content. The service is activated by clicking on the "CC" button on AOL's media player.

The AOL closed captioning project linked with public Television station, WGBH in Boston, and its Media Access Group, an organization that develops technologies and services for media accessibility.

For this project funding AOL looked to NEC of Japan for assistance through its NEC Foundation of America.

The NEC Foundation looks for new technology projects that will have a far reaching impact to help improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Nancy J. Bloch, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf in the US saluted AOL's efforts to make the online world accessible to all.

Claude Stout, Executive Director for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI) described the project as a "pace-setting initiative".

For now the online closed caption video project is limited to Windows users with Windows Media Player.

[Almost all the members of the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union have online web sites. Many carry TV programs for streaming that are a direct feed from the terrestrial broadcast. These often include sign language presenters placed in the corner of the screen. The NEC/AOL project for closed caption streaming output should be of direct interest as a simple practical solution to regional broadcasting industry forerunners such as China Central Television, NHK Japan, Radio Television Malaysia, Radio Television Hong Kong and Doordarshan of India.]

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