Friday, February 26, 2010

Use Your Voice 2

I turned my TV on one night last week to settle in for an evening at the Olympics. As I pressed 4 on my remote, to change from NY1 to NBC, I heard a slight little “pop” and my picture was gone. Ugh! I held my breath, hoping it was just a temporary cable, or network, problem that would rectify itself.

I started changing channels, the cable guide at the bottom of the screen, which I can barely read with my nose pressed up against it, was changing to reflect that I was changing channels. The only thing on the screen was the channel guide – no picture, no sound. Ugh!

Lately, I’ve been noticing that many people are afraid of their TV. I’ve seen mothers completely freaked out by the sight of the clicker in the hands of their child, fearing one wrong touch of a button and the TV may be out for days. I’ve seen grown men cry when they accidentally knock the cable off line during a football game and have to call the cable company and have the nice lady walk them through the reconnect. I’ve been told by a friend, in her own home, that she did not know how to turn on “that TV”, then her husband came home and he couldn’t get it on either.

It’s hilarious…when it’s not happening to you.

So there I was turning the TV off and on, over and over, as if to purge the demons from it. When that did nothing, I turned the DVD player on and off a few times – for no good reason, really. Then I looked at the remote up close in my video magnifier, hoping to find a button labeled “fix it,” to no avail.

I had to break down and call the cable lady myself and I was not looking forward to chatting with her. She always asks questions beginning in “Can you see? Can you see the serial number on your cable box? Can you see the teeny tiny symbols in grey on your silver remote? Can you see the television…at all? Ugh.

As I dialed her number, I tried to visualize success, the way our Olympic athletes do. Keep your eye on the prize – TV on! My dread of the cable lady’s questions prompted me to choose the “automated system” for technical help (an option I almost never pick).

Once again, it reminded me how amazing voice recognition programs are when they work. This one, much to my surprise, was like magic. The automated voice never asked, “Can you see?” instead it somehow just took me through the steps one by one, asking a few questions, but mostly made it easy and pleasant to refresh my cable. No impatience, no emotion, no judgment – exactly what you want from a machine.

Within minutes I was reunited with Apolo Anton Ohno, thank goodness.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Use Your Voice

Voice (or speech) recognition, when it works, is a very beautiful thing. It’s all around us, more and more.

I regularly pay my American Express bill by phone (800-IPAY-AXP), verbally giving my account number and stating the amount I want to pay, and which account I would like it deducted from. I find it much easier than writing a check. Voila…bill paid.

The easiest way to get schedules and fares for the Metro North and Long Island Railroad is their telephone information lines. All you do is answer the “lady’s” questions: What station are you leaving from? Going to? When? She can’t yet sell you a ticket, or tell you what track, but she is getting smarter all the time.

I love Fandango for the movies (phone
800-FANDANG). It’s all there for the asking: Do you want to find a theater? Find a movie? Get show times? Buy tickets? I give my AMX number to Fandango, with my voice, and purchase the tickets. At the theater I swipe my card and the tickets are mine.

Could it be simpler? Maybe…but only if they could read my mind.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ground Control to Major Tom

I like to talk about technology. I claim no technical acumen; I am the voice of the purely average user. I do not speak, or understand, tech talk, but I do have tremendous respect for those who do. I just hope and pray they do not speak “geek” to me.

A good technology experience can put you over the moon, without requiring a degree in rocket science. I find no joy in tinkering or toiling over a computer or electronic device, and I know I’ve got trouble when I continually default to the ‘shut down and reboot’.

Last week I decided it was high time I deal with some chronic problems I was encountering with a very important computer program, critical to my work. I had been shutting down and rebooting for months, and felt empowered as I sent off an email to the support desk, anticipating that my problems would be magically corrected with the checking, or un-checking, of an obscure box or two.

The very prompt and polite response appeared to come from another planet, in a completely unfamiliar language. However, it did give me an answer to my problems: I’ll just continue to live with them.

Below, is just a portion, of the alien instructions I received…

“1. Click on the Start button
2. Click on Control Panel
3. If you are using Windows XP Category view click on Sounds, Speech and Audio Devices (if you are using Windows Classic view skip to step 4) 4. Click or Double Click if you skipped step 3) on Sounds and Audio Devices 5. Select the Audio tab 6. Make sure that "Use only default devices" is unchecked 7. Click the OK button

Look for a file called tts.ini. Its location is the following:
C:\\Program Files\\ZoomText 9.1. Open the file in notepad. Look for something in that file that looks like what I have below:


Kate 16k]
comment=NeoSpeech Kate - AiSquared engine
ENGINE_NAME=NeoSpeech English [Ai Squared (v2)] ENGINE_NAME_LOW=NeoSpeech English [Ai Squared (v2)] VOICE_NAME=Kate DESCRIPTION=

In the section that has the following: EnableOnlyDefinedTTS=0 change it to read this:


Then save the changes and do a reboot and then see if that helps.”


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Apple Takes Another Bite

The much anticipated introduction of the iPad clearly positions Apple to, once again, shift a culture or two.

As we anticipated the tablet’s introduction, there were so many questions: what does it do, how does it look, what is it called, what is the price? For me, there is one question that supersedes all others --- is it accessible? The answer is “YES!” The iPad did not disappoint.

This sets a precedent. While Apple has been quietly executing their seamless commitment to “Universal Access” for some time now, the iPad marks the move up, to first generation standard, for Voice Over and Zoom.

I say hooray! From the get-go, Apple is making their superstars accessible right out of the box for people with impaired vision. It’s big and bold and warm and embracing. It’s about inclusion; we don’t have to wait for years for someone to cobble together a “third party” solution that is mediocre, at best, and costs 4 times more than it’s worth.

And, as if this were not already enough goodness, I do believe the iPad will also answer my call for access in my last post titled “Make It So”) to Kindle menus and Digital Video Recording. Never mind. My wishes appear to be granted by iPad access to the iBook Store and to TV and movies, as well.

Ah yes, the sweet taste of progress.