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Panasonic adds text-to-speech to 2012 TV range in the UK

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Panasonic has announced that all of its 2012 Viera LCD and plasma TVs will include a text-to-speech engine designed in collaboration with the british RNIB, designed to make using TVs easier for the visually impaired.

Panasonic Viera VT Series
Panasonic Viera VT Series

Panasonic's 2012 range of Viera LCD and plasma TVs will offer voice guidance technology, intended to help people with visual impairment, difficulty reading, or who struggle to use technology to navigate their TV's interface. It's been designed in collaboration with the British Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB), which specializes in accessibility, and uses a synthetic speech engine to provide instructions on how to navigate menus and describe the items selected.

The concept has the RNIB excited — Fazilet Hadi, the charity's group director of inclusive society, says that "televisions with talking features hugely improve the television experience for those of us with sight loss." The project was first revealed on the RNIB's InSight radio, but now full details have been announced. The system is only available in the UK for now, but if it proves successful Panasonic plans to roll it out to other markets.

It's not the only speech-related feature coming to the TVs, with Panasonic announcing the inclusion of Nuance's Dragon TV platform last month. This allows a user to speak naturally to their TV, asking it what show is on a certain channel or adjust the TV's settings without diving into menus. So now, not only can you speak to your TV, but it can talk right back to you.