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EBU Access Cast

Ebu Access Cast 28 Transcript

Feb 1, 2021

Transcript of EBU Access Cast - episode 28



This programme is financially supported by the fundings from the European Commission.

You are listening to the EBU Access Cast. The official podcast from European Blind Union about assistive technology for blind and partially sighted people.

And here is our host.




(Tanja) Welcome to EBU Access Cast, the official technology podcast from the European Blind Union. This is Episode 28. We wish you Happy New Year from all of EBU Access Cast team.


(Mario, singing) Happy New Year!


(Pawel) Welcome.


(Pawel, Hlinur) Happy New Year.


(Tanja, laughing) My name is Tanja Kleut.


(Mario) Hahahaha.


(Tanja) You cannot make such a show Mario.


(Mario) Yes I can, it’s for the beginning of January.


(Tanja) Yes. My name is Tanja Kleut and... I cannot concentrate like this, hahaha.


(Pawel, laughing) Mario would you like to take over?


(Mario) OK, My name is Tanja Kleut, hahahaha.


(Tanja) No, no. OK, I'm starting. I'm starting again.

So my name is Tanja Kleut and we have with us Mario Perčinić from Luxembourg.


(Mario) Hello.


(Tanja) Hi. Pawel Masarczyk from Austria.


(Pawel) Hello.


(Tanja) Hi. And, Hlinur Þór Agnarsson from Iceland. I hope I pronounced your name well.


(Hlinur) Well, this was quite good, actually.


(Tanja) OK.


(Hlinur) Who knows. And hello to everyone.


(Tanja) Hi. So what's up, guys?

Did you started well the New Year?


(Mario) Yeah, pretty much.


(Hlinur) Looking good.


(Pawel) Like a lot of technological shopping and post-Christmas shopping, haha.


(Tanja) Yes.


(Mario) Yes pre and post-Christmas shopping (????)


New gadgets: Tanja's Blue Yeti Nano microphone


(Tanja) Yeah, yeah, for me the same. I have a new microphone, if you can hear the difference from the last time. I have a new Yeti nano microphone from Blue. It is a USB condenser microphone that they advertise that it is perfect for recording and streaming, which is my case. So, I don't know, about some specifications. It has dual capsule's and it supports 24 bit and it has a frequency of up to forty eight kilohertz. So if that means something to our audience. What is convenient also is that it has a compact design with the metal stand. So it's stable and robust, I would say, and it doesn't require any driver. It's a plug and play microphone. And there is also an inaccessible software that you can install from Blue called Blue Sherpa, which is quite funny for me because in Croatian in some of the dialects sherpa means a “pot”.


(Mario) Hahahaha.


(Tanja) But OK, I mean, it's not accessible anyway, so I think I will uninstall it. Normally you can adjust the volume gain and some other controls I think, but you can do it also without that software.

So there are only two buttons on the microphone. One is in front and it is a volume control for headphones for monitoring the sound and if you hold  that button it mutes the sound. so you can mute the microphone. While on the backside on the microphone there is the button to change the two modes, the cardioid mode that is for podcasting or streaming. It records the voice that is in front of the microphone and there is the other mode, omnidirectional. That is more for recording the sounds around the room. If there are more people in the room that you would like to record. And yeah, so it has two modes. And I think if you hold it, you can also turn on and off the microphone. So, yeah, that's about it. I think the sound should be more clear than from the other Mike that I have from Blue that I used a long time ago for podcasting.


(Mario) Yeah, it sounds much better than the Snowball.


(Tanja) Yeah, probably the sound is much more clear and there is also a pop filter that you can purchase with it. So to prevent these pop sounds of some letters like P and T and so on. Yeah. So I'm happy with my purchase. I hope that you hear me well.


(Hlinur) I do have one question, though.


(Tanja) Yeah.


(Hlinur) What colour is it?


(Mario) Hehehe.


(Tanja) I don't know.


(Hlinur) Because they have it in... I mean, it looks awesome. And they have it in silver, blue, red and gold. And if I were to buy one, I think I would need to buy all four of them.


(Mario) Hahaha, why?


(Hlinur) They all look so beautiful.


(Tanja) It's a good question. I will have to verify with someone after like calling Be My Eyes or so, but I don't know.


(Hlinur) This is something I will need to have a written report about.


(Tanja) Yeah, yeah, hehe.


(Mario) Yeah, I mean you sound really good.


(Tanja) Yeah, that’s great.


(Mario) I mean for the budget of about...


(Hlinur) A hundred dollars.


(Mario) Yeah, it’s about 100 something euros on Amazon if you purhcase it on Amazon and yeah for that money it sounds good. And it's kind of the cheapest mike from the Yeti that it's currently possible to get.


(Tanja) Is it?


(Mario) OK, besides the Snowball.


(Tanja) Snowball was cheaper.


(Mario) Snowball is cheaper, but I'm talking about like, let's say their higher range of mikes. Because this from the specs that you have on your Yeti Nano, this is kind of stripped down version of the old Yeti professional, which I have, and that one has for capsule's and it's able to record in stereo as well. The bad side of that is that I need to keep my drivers somewhere because I need to install it for the mike otherwise it's not working.


(Tanja) Yes. But, what is also interesting with this microphone is that is a side-address, meaning that you should speak in front and not on the top of the microphone. And initially I was speaking on the top of the microphone and I could not hear my voice so loudly. And I thought, OK, where is the problem? But then I discovered in the manual that I should speak in the front. And what about yours?


(Mario) Mine is old school, I have to speak in front of the mike.


(Tanja) You mean on the top.


(Mario) Yeah, on the top. The top has to face me in order to get myself loud and clear. Even though I have, like on mine, I have the two separate buttons. So I have the button for the gain adjustments and I have the button for changing modes, which is like a click thing. You turn it and then you change the modes and you're is more modern, you just press and it changes the modes. If I'm not mistaken, your is smaller than mine and even lighter because mine, including the stand is... You know, you need to have the licence for weapons to use it, because it's really, I don't know, like almost two kilos in weight.


(Tanja) Yeah, well.


(Mario) On one side it's OK because it's very stable on the desk. That's a good thing, but yeah, it's not for...


(Tanja) If you want to carry it around, you will have another one.


(Mario) So, yeah, Good purchase for the mike.


(Tanja) Yeah. And what about you?


(Mario) Me? I got two different things actually.


(Tanja) Because you announced in the last podcast that you will buy headphones.



New gadgets: Mario's AfterShokz Aeropex bone conduction headset


(Mario) Yeah, I did buy Aftershokz aeropex, Bluetooth headset. And I am really happy with it. This is my second aftershocks that I have. Previously I used to have, I mean, I still have, but I don't use them anymore, I was using the Trekz titanium for a few years. But, these Aftershockz Aeropex is really good bone conduction headset. It's very much improved on multiple fronts, let's say. First of all Physically, when you put the headset on your head, it sits differently than the Trekz Titanium like this band that's behind your neck is not straight forward, it's kind of more angled. So it's going more upwards to your head which means that basically you can even lie down and listen to the content, if you want, with the headset, which you could not do it with Trekz Titanium. The second thing is that they're even lighter than the Titanium for about 10 grams. So it's like only 26 grams in weight. And they are really... Like, once you put them on your head, you don't feel that you have something on your head, whichI could feel that I'm having something on my head, especially after, like 30 minutes, one hour of use when I used to use the first ones. With the Aeropex it’s no chance. I even used it on the conferences that are now very popular and on the online meetings and it works great, like I could have it for an hour or two on my head and no problems about it.

The second thing about the headset is that they improved a lot something which was really critical for me, and these are the codecs for the Bluetooth in terms of getting the sound and transmitting the sound, so they updated the codecs because now they are using Bluetooth 5.0 and that means that now if you're on any kind of conferencing, meaning like Zoom or Teams or whatever it's going to sound almost the same as if you would listen through your, let's say, normal headset or normal speakers etc Before, on the old Trekz Titanium, whenever I would go on any kind of voice chat clients, it would sound terrible. People would hear me relatively bad and I would hear the people as I'm listening, like very low fi telephone call. It was like, ah, really bad. With this one it really sounds good and people are saying that they're hearing me very well on the conference. The mikes are also noise cancelling so which is good. So you can basically also, let’s say, to be outside and talk or be in, maybe, a little bit more noisy environment, but the mikes should stand and kind of filter that, so that's good. And the biggest improvements also is that they changed the charging port. So before you had a normal USB like a micro USB cable and you would need to unplug... There was on the right side of the headset...You still have on the old ones the cap that you need to raise and then insert your USB cable. And yeah, that would work eventually, but this newer ones are magnetic. They have the magnetic charger, which is also USB, but this one is specialised for the headset so just put it on the place and as it's magnetic, it sticks to the charging port. You just plug it into your whatever USB thing and it goes in charge. The battery lasts for eight hours or even more. I am still on my first charge and I used it a lot, so I will have to recharge soon, but they are still rocking with the first charge. I think I even got for more than 10 hours which is great.


(Tanja) That's great, but do you have the impression that after using them longer, the place where is positioned, the part that transmits the audio above your ear, that it becomes warm? Because this was my problem with the old model. After like ten minutes it becomes warm and it's really not pleasant.


(Mario) Yeah, yeah. That's true. It used to happen on the older headsets. On the Aeropex that’s not the case.


(Pawel) It's good to hear they have been improved because I still have the Bluez 2, which is I think the second model they ever released.


(Mario) Oh man, haha.


(Pawel) I know. Right, 2016. Here we go. Um, anyway, I also had the first model as well, and sadly I found a couple of issues with it. So, for instance, it was difficult to have phone conversations like my other party wouldn't hear me that well.


(Mario) Yeah. Yeah.


(Pawel) And also I wouldn't dare to listen to music with it in like public places or on public transport because either it was too quiet for me or it was too loud for everybody else around. I don't know if this is still the case.


(Mario) It is very much improved.


(Pawel) Ok, because I thought just like the side effect of it being bone conduction, that is not made for like listening to music. It's more like speech.

But if it's fixed, then it's good.


(Tanja) I had the same issue with my model that is the model before the latest one. when I was walking outdoor, I could hear the traffic much louder And sometimes even I could not understand what my phone is talking in my headset. Yeah. so, you say Mario it's improved.


(Mario) It is improved and there is one trick about the whole Aftershockz, which I found, and that's the thing that you need to change the equalisation on the headset. So in order to do that, you need to press this up and down volume buttons and then it will tell you in the same time you need to press on hold for like two or three seconds and then it will tell you the equalisation changed. And when the equalisation changes, you get immediate boost in the mid and bass frequencies. And in the same time, you get much more pleasant experience because then you can hear better. And it's running as it is supposed to.


(Pawel) That's good.


(Mario) So that's the thing.


(Tanja) That's great.


(Mario) There also with this new ones, which is cool, they give you actually 2 charging cables, which was not the case before. So you can have one at home and one at work, let's say like that or the second one for spare.


(Hlinur) God, that's a nice gesture.


(Mario) Yeah! That's a good thing. The bad thing was their packing. I really didn't like how they started packing the stuff. They used too much thing inside and they're like too much papers to waste and like whah…


(Tanja) Maybe to be sure that, you know, the product arrives well.


(Mario) Well, yeah, but I remember how the Trekz Titanium were packed so. Yeah. And I had to for example, purchase my extra case which I'm carrying around for them. So it's like a hard case. I had to purchase it extra because you don't get it with them by default. But it's OK. I mean if you want to use them on a daily basis, which I eventually do, it's kind of good to have their hard case with you because this soft thing, which comes it's kind of, yeah… I wouldn't carry it around. It's not safe.


(Pawel) Does it connect to multiple sources, too, like two devices at once? Some headsets can do that.


(Mario) Actually, it's kind of unknown and you should experiment with it because the older ones, they used to do that, the Trekz Titanium, they were suppose they could have multiple pairing. So I don't see the reason why the new ones should not have that, but it's not listed in their manual. So maybe it has a hidden feature.


(Pawel) An Easter egg for Christmas.


(Mario) I would have to check whether the old method works on the new ones as well, that I can tell you. But you also have the side button, which can be used for even calling up the assistance and for skipping the tracks for multimedia, hanging up calls and etc.. So that’s good.


(Tanja) That's great.


(Mario) Yes.


(Tanja) Good purchase.


(Mario) That was a good purchase, especially because I'm using that relatively frequently, and as we said in the previous podcasts, we are now in the time an age where we are all the time on some conferences or meetings or whatever, even right now, the whole everyday work for, you know, our job positions, what are we doing is also partially or fully based online. So, yeah, it's good to have such gadget around.


(Tanja) Well, I guess that it is convenient when you have to hear the surrounding.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Tanja) But then when you want to isolate yourself from the surroundings, maybe it's better to have standard headphones.


(Mario) Actually, there is a workaround for that because what they give you is a set of ear plugs here. And so they're saying if you need to isolate yourself, you need to put the set of earplugs. And then when you put set of earplugs, you don't hear anything. But still you can hear the sound from the headset because they are bone conduction and actually it does work.


(Tanja) Yeah.


New gadgets: Mario's Boss WL-20 wireless system for musical instruments


(Mario) So that was the first gadget that I got, the second one arrived this week, actually, I got it as a Christmas present. Yeeee.


(Tanja) Santa came late.


(Mario) Yeah. Well, you know, Santa had to travel around…


(Tanja) Yeah. It's not easy.


(Hlinur) It's a busy day for him.


(Mario) Yeah, yeah. He had corona as well, so, you know… hahahaha.


(Tanja) Nooo, poor Santa.


(Mario) But he recovered, actually, so it's OK.


(Tanja) OK.


(Mario) Um, yeah, the second thing Is Boss wl-20 Wireless gadget, it's wireless for guitars and basses. As I'm multi instrumentalist as well, musician, so I'm playing yeah, 356 different instruments, string instruments, included, I'm struggling with, yeah, many cables in the house and on stages and blah blah blah. So I started looking into those different wireless units for the guitars a few years ago. And they started appearing on the market for the last four or five years ago, but they were not so good at the beginning, especially the digital ones which started appearing on the market. They were having first issues with the latency and you had to adjust manually, the channels, et cetera, et cetera. And some of them were too much, giving too much highs, if you would play over that comparing to the cable. So, yeah, I didn't like them so much, but eventually in the meantime, technology improves. So Boss which is very known pedal and effects maker for the last 40 years, they release-ed different wireless for guitars or you can even use four keys if you want. And the 20 is kind of the cheapest in range because it's very portable. You have two devices, I mean, two components. You have a small receiver and a small transmitter. The battery, when it's full blast for 10 to 12 hours, which is great compared to most of the other units, which lasts up to five hours, they last shorter in practical terms. And the cool thing about it is that it's having only 2.3 milliseconds for the latency, which is next to nothing, I mean, human ear cannot hear that. Like when you are playing, you hear instantly what you have played. There is no latency at all. And one, it has a range of up to 20 metres as long as you are in the same room or on the same stage, which is great. What you need to do every time when you're connecting is you need to match, you need to connect to the transmitter and the receiver, leave them connected for about 15 seconds because they will search all the Wi-Fi band around you and they will find the free frequency automatically, and then they will connect one to each other, so then you just unplug. You plug one into the guitar, the other in the amp or pedal whatever you have. And there you go, you are up and running, you don't need to adjust any manual settings for the channels.  And what's really cool is that there is no… As they are operating on the same frequency band as the Wi-Fi routers, cell phones, etc. It's working on 2.4 gigahertz. There is no interference. Like, I'm living in a quite small apartment where I have many different Wi-Fi devices running all the time, including my Wi-Fi router, cell phones and all kinds of different junk, and there is no interference, I'm having a very nice signal, everything works, nothing loses the signal, going offline from the Internet, so far, so good, and it's, uh, yeah, the thing has also built in cable simulator, so it's simulating like the cable of three metres and it really works great. It has warm kind of sound that you're having, like when you're connected through the cable, it's not that harsh. Yeah, I really like it.


(Hlinur) Do you need to keep it close together when they are connecting or can they be like 10, 15 metres apart? From the beginning?


(Mario) So when you are connecting them, you need to plug the transmitter into receiver. They plug into each other.


(Hlinur) to each other, OK.


(Mario) Yeah. So they stay plugged in for like 15 seconds. Then you unplug them and then you plug them wherever you want to plug them and you go.


(Hlinur) It sounds very neat.


(Mario) Yeah, it is, and they have also a version, it's called Boss 2l-20 l, which stands for kind of low latency, the only difference is that this l version doesn't have a cable simulator, which is kind of good for whatever acoustic guitars if you really want to do that, or for keys or whatever. But I mean, for me, it, uh, it works even with this cable simulator, because I, I'm running all the guitars and basses anyway through the cables and kind of used to that, that kind of a little bit filtered but yeah. So far so good. It's great. I really like it.


(Tanja) And I guess probably on the stage it is much, much more convenient.


(Mario) Yeah, yeah, it's much more convenient. For example, sometimes I am playing with my pedalboard. In the pedalboard… When you're running through the board, you need to have at least two cables around you and et cetera. Even if you're reducing one cable, that's great. So that's much better.


(Tanja) Ok, sounds great, and that is accessible, too.


(Mario) Yeah, it is, and this is really accessible for blind people, as I said, because you don't need to adjust any channels.


(Tanja) There is no display.


(Mario) No, there is no display. And the charging is really convenient like you can charge it on any kind of phone chargers. You get the micro USB cable, you just connected into a receiver. And again, in order to charge both units, you just plug them together and you put the cable into the charger and off you go. Everything is charging. The full charge then takes about four hours and then you're up and running again.


(Tanja) Ok, that's great.


New gadgets: Pawel's music pillow


(Mario) Yeah. Pawel, Did you fall asleep?


(Pawel) No, I did not. I was just intensively listening.


(Tanja) We thought you are using your new gadget.


(Pawel) Yes, I was intensively listening. I did not fall asleep, although I bought something I can definitely fall asleep on. Hahaha. In fact, I got two things. But the first one is something you can fall asleep on and it's intended for you to do that. (“Twinkle, Twinkle” song in the background with snoring sound) It's a music pillow, which… and I learnt this because the other thing is a similar sort of music gadget. It basically is what it says on the box. There is no magic behind it, but it doesn't mean it's bad. It's just that sometimes when you see these kind of descriptions, you tend to think it's something more awesome than what it says. It's basically a pillow in which there stays a headphone like a single speaker that is used for the headphones. So that when you fall asleep, you can put something on. It's intended for relaxation music, but I already tried it with like YouTube videos and speech and people talking and what not. And it is supposed to make you be able to listen to all of that without wearing anything on your head, any headphones that you might find uncomfortable or may tangle yourself in the cables while turning around. And it's actually good, it, uh      , it has a jack cable. Like, I saw for the first time, a cable stuck out of a pillow. It's real.


(Mario) Man!


(Pawel( Hahaha.



(Mario) How do you wash that thing?


(Pawel) Actually, you have to remove the headset from inside and you can do that. It's not totally sued together, you can remove it and you should remove it when you wash it. Yeah, it's not waterproof or anyhow made resistance to that amount of water and then you put it back in. And the way it works is basically you connect it and you play the music or anything you want. And you I think the best position to be is to lie on your back and near your right ear you will definitely hear the sound with enough volume for you to understand it, but with low enough that definitely you can't be heard from outside your room. Like when I was outside my bedroom, I couldn't hear a thing. I could maybe hear something like there is something going on, but I couldn't tell what it was. And it wasn't definitely disturbing. And ideally, it should also be quiet enough that the person you're sleeping with, if that's the case, doesn't hear it either.

This, I would say, is questionable, I guess it depends on the model. I got a pillow from a company called Kanguru. I think it is. Yeah, Kanguru. And you can put your phone a bit quieter and then it's more difficult to hear it for the other person, but it's also more difficult to hear it for you. But at any rate, even with the higher volume levels, it's not disturbing to the point where it's not a speaker is not a proper speaker. So it's definitely not disturbing so much as if you played it on the loudspeaker of your phone, for example. And it's quite wide as well. It's, uh, I think my size was 70 to 35 to something. And yeah, the sound is clear.

I made the mistake of putting it upside down the first time, and I thought this speaker is not that good. But then I turned it around and it turned out that I was supposed to keep it on the other side. Hahahaha.


(Mario, Hlinur) Hahaha.



(Pawel) And yeah, I can definitely say it's a nice, it's a neat gadget and it's, uh, something I could recommend, especially if you like, falling asleep to some audiobook or some piece of music or podcast or radio or anything like that. It's definitely, uh.


(Tanja) But does it have any mode that it stops or turns off after some time or you have to have such application on the mobile phone because you don't want to play all the night.


(Pawel) Yeah, no, it's extremely low tech. It doesn't have any buttons. You don't do anything. Even the volume you have to control on your target device.


(Hlinur) It’s basically just a speaker.


(Pawel( Yes, exactly. It's like wearing your headphones except the headphone is laying beside you, not on your head. But I think both iOS has a built-In sleep timer as far as I know. And for Android you can install and like most apps that you probably use, have some kind of sleep timer. And for those that don't, you can install an external app that does the trick. So that's not so much of a problem, but it's there and it's quite nice, although there are different models and you can even find pillows with actual speakers. So if you can if you live alone or with somebody with whom you listen to the same stuff while falling asleep, you can definitely get something like this. And it's also there on Amazon. Um, there'll be the link to to my model in the show notes.


New gadgets: Pawel's music winter hat


the second thing I got is a music winter hat, Because I thought


(Tanja) mhm


(Pawel) like since we have to wear hats anyway, not to get cold…


(Mario) Uh,


(Pawel) we may make it practical as well, and while I know that there are, of course, the bone conduction headphones, I just wanted to give it a try and see if this is worth anything, because with this kind of technology, you might end up with something that is good and something that is not so good (depends because there are no like established companies that manufacture such things), umm so I went on Amazon as well, and I ended up getting, uh, Geekerchip, that’s how it’s called, and it cost me around 20 euros, and I must say it's quite good worth for the price. Basically, it's a winter hat, it's quite thick, so you can't you don't have to worry that it's… you you get cold or anything. It's a bit too big for my head, I figured,


(Tanja) [laughter]


(Pawel) so… Yeah, maybe some manual modifications will be needed, but basically what it has is a… there is a cable running around your forehead that goes to two rectangular speaker capsules like pads, and both of them are playing at the same time, so it’s stereo, you connect them via Bluetooth…

The sound is really clear. I was really surprised. You can even get a bit of bass out of this.

So it's definitely not… It's not the lowest quality, but that's for sure.


(Mario) Where those caps are positioned then?


(Pawel) Ideally on your ears.


(Mario) Aha,


(Pawel) I say ideally because the cap is a different size than my head, so they don't lie ideally there, in my case, but I think that's the destination part; in your right ear you will have the “turn on” button aaand…

It also has separate previous and next track buttons, which is sometimes quite nice because some apps use this for other purposes, like Dotwalker navigation for example you can switch between different info you do using previous and next button and…

You can, of course, play and pause, you can, of course, pick up and end your calls and of course it has a microphone too, so you can have your calls using just your winter hat. And actually, this sounds good. I had a conversation already with somebody whilst being on a bus stop and there were cars running and everything, and the other party could hear me well. And when I asked later how she found the quality, she said it was… she couldn't tell I was using something different, so this is definitely good. And, um, you can, as I said, listen to everything you want. It has Bluetooth 5.0 so… Ummm all the new stuff should be there, including the fact that for Android phones, it doesn't have this annoying bug where your Bluetooth goes to sleep after a while, so even if you start using your screen reader after a bit of inactivity, it will instantly start speaking, it will not kick in with a bit of delay like some speakers do, so that's definitely…


(Mario) Aaa, Okay…


(Pawel) That's definitely good.


(Mario) Yeah


(Pawel) I must say, it's not overly loud, and so when I'm in the street, for example doing something, and there is really high traffic going on with the cars, I had problems understanding a podcast I was listening to, but then I didn't have a problem understanding my screen reader; but then I'm using Acapela TTS and it's a bit more bassy, so maybe that's the reason.

I would have to still try it with music, for example, the phone call was OK. I think I had a bit of trouble understanding the other person, but that's sometimes the case, even without any kind of headphones, so maybe it wasn't that; but definitely the podcast was too quiet, even though I had both my phone and these headphones on full volume.


(Tanja) Hmmm


(Pawel) But it's definitely comfortable to use when, for example, I'm walking and I just want to check my bus schedule and I don’t want to put the phone right right up to my ear. I just keep it low in my hand or in my pocket and I navigate through the apps then I can definitely understand what my TTS is saying.

And first of all, because the pads don't lie so tightly on your ears like they do in case of regular headphones, I think it's a bit safer to use this when out and about. And also, I know that you can achieve even better effects probably with your, uh, bone conduction headphones, and apparently this this newer aftershocks, you can even put nicely on winter hats, and they still work quite well, I heard, but I think for me, at least, it's more intuitive because, well, I always keep my winter hat inside my jacket pocket, so it's also instinctive for me to put it on and when I put it on, I already have this habit of turning it on so that my phone is instantly connected. And yeah, it it works really well. I still have to find where to remove the pads for, first of all, charging, second of all for washing the hat, But I'm definitely sure it's somewhere there. You can also start the assistants, as was indicated before, with the other headphones and switch the tracks, that works perfectly, holding down the buttons for switching the tracks also raises and lowers the volume; and yeah, that's pretty much all about it. It's quite nice and I think it's also one of these gadgets I'll be using on a daily basis.


(Tanja) Yeah, and…


(Mario) Aaaa,  OK! So…


(Tanja) Do you know, what is the material? Probably it’s not wool.


(Pawel) Ummm, I'm not sure, but it's really thick and warm, so I must see aaaa…


(Tanja) Yeah, Okay.


(Pawel) it's it's definitely… really similar to my previous winter hat that I used before.


(Tanja) Ok, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I have to say that here before the pandemic in Luxembourg, we had a very nice festival,


(Mario) Migration Festival, no?


(Tanja) Migration Festival, But actually I was thinking about the International Bazaar.


(Mario) Oh, yeah, yeah.


(Tanja) Where people from different countries sell like Christmas stuff, and things, products that are related to Christmas, and there was a stand from Iceland…


(Hlynur) Ohh…


(Tanja) And they were selling products based from wool.

Yeah, and I have some Icelandic hats and they're really, really warm. They're the warmest that I have. Of course they're not Bluetooth and ehmm…


(Hlynur) We could do something about that.




(Tanja) Yeah, but, uh, no, no, it's amazing. It's amazing. And I remember the lady said, well, you don't have such a cold winter here in Luxembourg. You don't need this very thick one. Well, you know, for me, it's important that is the thickest possible.


(Hlynur) Yeah, yeah…


(Tanja) but. Okay.


(Hlynur) Can’t beat the Icelandic wool, can you?


(Tanja) Yeah, yeah…


(Mario) No, no…




(Pawel) I guess if you’re, if you're handy with your with your needle and thread, you can probably do the necessary modifications to install the, um, speaker parts inside. [laughter]


(Mario) [laughter]


(Tanja) Yyyyeah, I don't know. I wouldn't do it for my. [laughter]


(Pawel) Okay.


(Tanja) As it would be a pity to destroy a…


(Mario) And then imagine, you put your, you put your speaker inside and then you all you hear is…


[The sound of a sheep bleating is played)




(Tanja) Yeah. No, no, no.


(Mario) Naaah...


(Tanja) Anyway we have sheeps here close by.


(Mario) Yeah, It's true.



(Tanja) So no, this is true. We… here where I live, there are some sheeps that you can hear in spring and yeah… until the winter starts. But OK, are these all the gadgets that we can talk about on the podcast?


(Mario) hmmmm


(Pawel) I think yes.


(Tanja) Well, there are many. Santa brought many gadgets this year. Well, or last year.


(Mario) Yeah, hmm…


(Hlynur) Yeah, he got very creative when he was giving Pavel his gadget


(Tanja) Yeah!


(Mario) [laughter]


(Pawel) For sure, yes.



(Tanja) Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Yeah. I'm looking forward to new gadgets from Pawel.




(Tanja) Yeah…


(Pawel) There are some more there are some more kinds of clothes that you can put speakers in, so people have like um…

I think CES also seen a rise in this like… apparently there was a Bluetooth speaker helmet that you can connect with other helmets of the same brand to stay in touch over walkie talkie when you're cycling.


(Mario) Oh yeah.


(Pawel) So I think


(Tanja) Ah, okay.


(Pawel) there'll be more of the smart, uh, clothing things and this is really interesting.

For sure, there are, um, gloves and jackets with built in power bank to warm you up. This I already heard of, although I never tested…


(Hlynur) Yeah, the, I've heard of the heat jackets. Also wondering: maybe those pillows, maybe they also are made in stereo so you can…


(Mario) [laughter]

who knows?


(Pawel) Yeah…


(Hlynur) have two  pillows with the same audio and just one jack?


(Pawel) Aaaah, yesT, there, actually, there are. I've seen some models for couples that have that have like two jacks and you can plug in two different sources or you have two speakers so each person can take one and you can listen both to the same things.


(Hlynur) Of course


(Pawel) And Valentine's Day is coming, so you never know.


(Hlynur) You never know.


(Pawel) Who will find these recommendations useful.


(Hlynur) It's always like that. Once I have an idea, someone has already beat me to it.


(Mario) Yeah, yeah.


(Hlynur) It's always the case.


(Tanja) [laughter]



(Mario) You never can get rich.


(Hlynur) No, never.




(Tanja) Yes. Maybe once you should try.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Hlynur) Yeah, maybe, maybe, who knows? Never say never.


(Tanja) Yeah, yeah.


(Mario) Of course


(Tanja) last time we mentioned a bug in Zoom when you were using virtual background and screen reader and video at the same time; and this was fixed in some of the last version. I'm not sure, because from that episode when we recorded, they were three updates, so at some point late December, at the end of December, this issue was fixed; so now you can use your virtual  background without issues, without having this annoying dialogue box.


(Hlynur) Yeah, this is definitely the way we wanted to start 2021.


(Tanja) Yes.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Tanja) absolutely, So you can use the virtual background…


(Pawel) Shout, shoutout to the…


(Tanja) Yeah?


(Pawel) Zoom tech support for reacting so fast because


(Hlynur) Yeah


(Pawel) definitely  wasn't like a major bug that affects a lot of user base and given that we reported about it the last time and now we are six weeks later, more or less, it means that they were really fast with reacting to this and given that, you know, we are not their biggest user base, it's definitely a shout out to them that they took their time to quickly fix it.


(Hlynur) Yeah, definitely.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Tanja) Yes, and Zoom…


(Mario) And the thing is that you cannot find it in the their changelog.


(Tanja) You cannot find it.


(Mario) I went to, I went in to the Changelog up to November…


(Tanja) Mhm


(Mario) when we recorded the episode, and I couldn't see that they mentioned it very specifically, that it was fixed.


(Tanja) Yeah.


(Mario) So eventually it is fixed, but we don't know in which release it…


(Tanja) Yeah, yeah, but still in Zoom, they really take accessibility seriously and...


(Mario) Yeah, yeah…


(Tanja) that's great for us because we know that not all of the conferencing tools are accessible like Zoom so great for Zoom.


(Mario) Yeah, I hope they also will fix, or maybe they fixed it, this very annoying bug of recording where you would do a multi-track recording and then you would try to combine all the tracks later you would find out that not all of them are having the same length; so we are in talk with Zoom for about a few months now to get it fixed. We will see if it's if it's done at the end. But yeah, we hope it will it will be resolved.


(Tanja) OK, maybe, maybe if you say it on a podcast, it will be done for the next time.


(Mario) Yeah. Maybe. You need to say it  in the podcast, you see.


(Tanja) Yeah.




Accessibility in the news


CES 2021


(Tanja) So the first news that I would like to start with is the CES that Pawel already mentioned, so the Consumer Electronics Show, that is a yearly tech event, normally organised in Las Vegas, but this year was virtual and normally we have big brands there - the same was this year - but it was interesting to see also the trend of the technology and gadgets that were presented. Some of them were like smart home devices, more oriented to headphones and noise cancellation because everyone is working from home or also some 3D speakers or also clean tech like air purifiers that claim to purify the air from some viruses, covid included, and also UV cleaner that you can use for cleaning smartphone.


(Mario) Mhm.


(Tanja) So this was interesting that the pandemic influenced also the technology industry. And what is interesting is that we also have the assistive technology industry there, which is good not only for us to be presented, but also to educate the technology industry what features can be adopted in future products and from the articles that they found, they say that this year much more products were more inclusive, so it was not only targeting one type of users, but they were more inclusive, which is great. So some of the devices that I found are some hearing aids that are based on AI or lip recognition system that was even used, they say, for covid patients to understand what they're saying when they're unable to speak; so there’re different assistive technologies for different disabilities, but regarding visual impairment, there was, for example, Aware application from Sensible Innovation, that is a turn-by-turn indoor navigation system. It uses electronic stickers, they call them smart landmarks that basically are iBeacons with Bluetooth Low Energy, so this is like an alternative for for beacons that like a building or like a public space has to label the rooms in order for the application to recognise them and to provide a description to the user. It's another indoor and  navigation system, so it would be interesting to see, is it more precise comparing to the others already existing?


(Hlynur) I’m also interested…


(Mario) We don't know.


(Hlynur) I'm also interested in learning about how they would price themselves.


(Tanja) Mhm…

(Hlynur) These solutions tend to… These Bluetooth indoor navigation solutions tend to be quite pricey.


(Mario) Yeah, true.


(Tanja) Mmhm…


(Mario) For example, I personally think that the way of Beacons is over in terms of indoor GPS navigations, I think that what we will see in the future is that we will see the development of the apps which use cameras for making the indoor mapping, and then while you make your mapping, then later you can configure all the stuff what you need… so once you have everything ready, you will just walk into the certain space with your phone and you will select a map from that building or shopping centre or whatever you find that it's being…


(Tanja) mmhm.


(Mario) online on the server, it would work basically very similar to the standard outdoor GPS app. In fact, I think this is the… also the way of how GoodMaps is supposed to be running. Pawel, is that right?


(Pawel) Yes, that's what I read. So basically, there is a wizard in which you create the map of your building, you upload it and it works by using your camera to orientate yourself in the building to compare the image of the camera with the image in the creator.


(Mario) Ok, so you need to have your camera up and running.


(Pawel) I think… Yes, I think it's using the camera for retracing the route.


(Tanja) Yeah…


(Pawel) That's what I read.


(Tanja) I think… I think too. And this is the difference between this Aware app because that one does not use camera. It it uses the…


(Pawel) The beacons...


(Tanja) it connects yeah with iBeacons.


(Pawel) There's plenty of this beacons based systems and none of them seem to go much further than


(Mario) True! Yeah!


(Tanja) Mmhm


(Pawel) than these test installations that they advertised like, of course, there are some smaller and bigger successes with different systems in different countries, but they seem to be very far, few and between and also, there seems to be no alliance to establish a standard about this, so everyone is experimenting on their own


(Tanja) Mmhm.


(Pawel) and we keep hearing that this system will be a revolution, this system will be a revolution. But they all seem to be a similar concept and none of them is gaining or hardly any of them is gaining enough traction to say, OK, this is the thing. It's more like people are playing around at different places with different systems and… Somehow these beacons don't want to really work too well…


(Hlynur) they they don't they don't stay. I mean, they might work for a while, but there's a lot of… lot of work that needs to be done to maintain it also: changing batteries, making sure that everything is working properly and what I tend to see once it comes to maintaining accessibility, there is rarely someone responsible for it.


(Pawel) I think it's like more…


(Tanja) Mmhm.


(Pawel) like pushing the pushing the task from people to people like the manufacturers say it should be the responsibility of the municipalities of the city, that they deploy some task force that will that basically is concentrated on the accessibility of the city and they manage all the different issues, and they should also have somebody who does the conservation of these things.


(Mario) Yeah, yeah.


(Hlynur) Mmhm.


(Pawel) And then the city is like, “No, we don't have the time, we don't know, we don't have the people.” and often it goes down to either some voluntary groups of people who do it or don't do it or they go back  “Yeah, it’s the manufacturers’ job. They should come and fix it.” and it's ping pong, ping pong and nobody does it.


(Tanja and Hlynur) Yeah.


(Hlynur) True.


(Tanja) Maybe here is the problem. Maybe there should be a better support for the customer.


(Pawel) Yeah, I also heard that with this beacon's, the problem is that, um, if you have a lot of them located near each other for really precise navigation from like door to door, the signals tend to overcome each other and it's difficult to…


(Mario) also there is interference?


(Pawel) Yeah.


(Mario) Oh, that sucks, man.


(Tanja) Mmhm.


(Pawel) that's that's what I heard.

So, like the Beacons alone will not give you the navigation. It’s maybe also good that the beacons give some feedback as well from themselves so we can locate each individual transmitter.


(Tanja) Yeah, well, we will see if that will be used in the future more or another app. Anyway, I think in big buildings, it’s it’s  quite convenient to have it. There is also a list of venues inside the application that you can see where the maps were already created and most of them are in the States. So I hope at some point it will come also to Europe.


And OK, talking about some other gadgets, there is also a


(Mario) Mudra Band.


(Hlynur) Mudra Band


(Mario) I don’t know, it’s it’s… Yeah, it’s from…


(Tanja) Mudra?


(Mario) Yeah, it's from India. I mean, the Mudras are from ancient Sanskrit or Hindi or whatever.


(Tanja) Okay, I didn't know that.


(Mario) Yeah, yeah, it's kind of interesting device, though, it's conceptual for the moment and it's in development, that's from my understanding, what I was able to distinguish, because they have a also a YouTube video, which is not audio described, so you don't know, in fact, what's going on; but the guy in the video talks quite a lot so you could get…


(Hlynur) Yeah, and he was quite happy about it.


(Mario) Yeah, he was quite happy about it. Yeah, true.


(Tanja) well, it’s an  advertisement.




(Mario) Yeah, of course it's the advertisement,


(Hlynur) Of course.


(Mario) but the whole concept of the device is that it's supposed to help people with various diseases, such as ALS, who basically are having problems with the movement, and it's supposed to give the set of commands to the Apple Watch, so you are able to operate the the Apple Watch with this Mudra Band that you're wearing and… Now, now, I found two things, which are contradiction, one to each other. They're saying that they're using neural network coming out from from the brain where you’re able to detect like to think of of certain command and then make that command available to the device, but in the same time, they're talking about the fact that you're using only one hand to operate the device with very, very small finger movement; so they're they're using some kind of special gestures.


(Hlynur) Yes, I think I can elaborate.


(Mario) OK, yeah. You saw the video, actually, so, yes.


(Hlynur) So they’re they have these sensors on the on the Mudra Band that detect once which fingers you are actually moving, and if you're like you can do a gesture, just shake your hand, and that would like answer an incoming call and you could use like each and every finger, just move it downwards and back up again, like that would be changed to the next screen or switch to a next song in Spotify or whatever. So just different finger and hand gestures would mean, like they sense a different kind of motion from each one.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Hlynur) Which will then deploy an action from that.


(Tanja and Mario) Mm hmm.


(Hlynur) So there was nothing…


(Mario) Oh, Okay.


(Hlynur) I don't think you would need to have any special brain activity going on.




(Mario) Because he was mentioning that in the video when he was talking.


(Hlynur) Yeah.


(Mario) But that was eventually kind of speech. Practically then you are just operating the device via your  very small hand and finger movements.


(Hlynur) Yeah. I mean…


(Tanja) Yeah.


(Hlynur) it's, it’s, it’s I think it works just maybe a little bit more advanced, but in a similar way, like like a heart rate monitor on a watch.


(Mario) Who thinks that this is something that it could be useful for you, it's the thing is available for pre-order, umm, on their website.


(Hlynur) I thought, Yeah, I thought it was neat. I really did, but…


(Mario) Okay.


(Hlynur) I'm not I’m not an iPhone man, so it's not for me yet. I I do have a Garmin smartwatch. Umm, I wait till I can buy a Mudra Band for that.


(Mario) Oh yeah. Alright, alright.


(Tanja) Yeah, well…


(Mario) I mean, the device itself, if this is the case that it's really helpful, is not that expensive. It's ummm, I I saw the pre-order prices about $179,


(Tanja) Yeah.


(Mario) so it's OK. I mean, if this is something that could be helping, people would, you know…


(Hlynur) Yeah, I mean, you don't have to use you don't have to I mean it can make the watch also quite more accessible. Uh, I don't know, does Apple Watch, uh. Have a TTS or it does it  work with the with the iPhone?


(Mario) Yeah yeah yeah, sure, yeah, yeah, it’s it speaks.


(Hlynur) Ok, so in that way you could have better accessibility with the watch if you know just which gestures you need to do for which action, so you don't need to use the touch screen of the watch to do it.


(Mario) Yeah, true. True. Yeah. In that case that's something that could be also. Yeah.


(Hlynur) But of course this, this is only good if it works.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Tanja) Yeah, as if it works as described, yeah.


(Hlynur) Yeah.


(Pawel) And and if it's built with different accessibility scenarios in mind, of course, For VoiceOver you will need for example a bit  different arrangements than for regular use.


(Tanja) Mmhm.


(Pawel) Support gestures for instance…


(Hlynur) Pawel, do you have an Apple Watch?


(Pawel) No, I don't actually I don't have any any kind of smartwatch.


(Tanja) Yeah.


(Hlynur) Ok, so so then we're expecting two new gadgets from you next time around.


(Hlynur and Pawel) An apple Watch with a Mudra Band


(Mario) [laughter]


(Pawel) Oh.


(Tanja) No, but he's an Android guy, so I doubt.


(Pawel) if Apple Watch works already, like alone, independently enough from the phone that you can use it without having one then, well…


(Tanja) yeah, why not.


(Hlynur) You never know.


(Pawel) Definitely.




(Mario) Yeah, well so far it didn't happen so.


(Pawel) Yeah.


(Tanja) Yeah. But talking about health technology, health related technology, uh, there was also one application mentioned at CES that can measure your blood pressure through the camera.


(Mario) Oh, yeah, that was from Biospectal Technologies, that's a company based in Switzerland, and they started developing an app which is now in the beta cycle, basically, you can also go on the website of the company and apply for their beta programme if you want; and the coolest thing is that this app is supposed to measure your your blood pressure through the camera of the phone.


(Tanja) Mmhm.


(Mario) and what they have done is that on their website, they have an article from The Nature newspaper for… it's a science newspaper, where they published all the study, which they made on, I don't know what they say, about 150 people that were included in the studies and they were saying that the end product should be basically something that should be largely available and also accessible to people who are also not able to afford themselves a normal blood pressure device measure and… But the end results, what they achieved so far, according to the to the study published, was really amazing. It was almost identical to the blood pressure thing, which you would normally use.


(Tanja) Yeah.


(Mario) So we can definitely see that this is something that will come out very soon and that that will transform the usage of the smart phones again.


(Tanja) Yeah, that will be really wonderful and also not only if you can afford or not, maybe you consider that standard blood pressure is more reliable, or at least at the start, because for the moment it is still in development phase, but also, I think it's very practical when you're around, not at home.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Tanja) And then, I don't know, maybe you you have a problem with your blood pressure and you can measure it or you maybe don't have, but you want to check, so it's I think it's really practical for everyone. Well, I'm looking forward to it. We'll see.

OK, and then also what is interesting in the context of the CES:  the portal Engadget did an interview with the Microsoft chief officer for accessibility, Jenny Lay Flurrie.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Tanja) And the Google product manager for Android Accessibility, Brian Kemler, where they speak about inclusive design in Microsoft and Google, we will share the YouTube link in the show notes.

I think it's very inspiring for all companies seeing how big brands like Microsoft and Google are dealing with inclusion and accessibility.


(Pawel) Yeah, and, uh, I think also it was good time for both companies to sum up what they achieved last year when it comes to accessibility. Uh, Google mentioned their Live Transcribe and, uh, Microsoft mentioned the again the Xbox adaptive controller. What they didn't mention, but I'm pretty sure they somehow advertised it in the CES, is the fact that shortly before Christmas, there was a new version of Seeing AI out.


(Tanja) Mmhm.


(Pawel) It was the… Was it the 3.0, I think it is 3.0, the version number is quite high anyway, like the major milestone and this is not without the reason. On one hand, I am especially happy because finally the app has been localised to Polish, so all the all the options are finally in Polish, and a couple of other languages were added too, I think, uh, Czech and  Slovak or at least Czech was there, and I think a couple of Scandinavian ones erm… everything is in the release notes. But let's say game breaker that they introduced was the New World Channel, which lets you look around if you have one of the latest iPhone 12 I think Pro and Pro Max, with the Lidar sensor, you can tell what objects are in your vicinity and how far they are; and not only can you be told in metres how far they are, but also you can hear that in space, so when you were wearing headphones, you will hear, for example, that the door is coming on from the right, what you can then do is you can set a beacon on this door and you can hear the sound of the door and then you can align yourself to that door and reach it easier without asking around for its exact location. I heard a demo of this feature, and I must say I have a feeling that the soundscape app from Microsoft that also does this 3D location of points outside like on a map, had a bit wider stereo field, maybe the fault of something of the recording of in the podcast or there was some other factors at play. But I had a feeling like the stereo field was a bit narrower here than it was with the the 3D field, let's say, than it was with the Soundscape, but still, I think it's a nice feature. It's the. I'm really curious to see what's going to happen with the Lidar in the future, because more and more apps are trying to use it, for now to calculate the distance, but maybe there will be there is definitely potential for some more things to happen with this AI plus Lidar, and I hope more phones will also receive it so that the lower budget things will also have the Lidar.


(Tanja) That's really great. And I'm using Seeing AI quite often for recognising products or to read with the short description channel text, but I think it would be great that also in the product channel, we have also the possibility to read the expiry date. I don't know if some products provide this information, but at least with the products that I'm normally checking, it never gives any details. It just tells me the name of the product and that is all. But it would be great to have also the expiry date, so I, I wrote to Seeing AI team and um, I don't know if they will be ever able to introduce it, but I think it would be a nice feature.


(Pawel) Yeah, definitely.


(Tanja) Yeah.


(Pawel) from my favourite CES picks like devices that I've seen that were presented, I think what could be interesting is the face mask from Razer, which is supposed to have a built-In microphone and speaker so that your voice can be heard, um, by everyone as clearly as if you didn't wear the mask, so I think it's definitely good. I often run into these situations where I'm talking to somebody or asking for something with the mask on and people are having difficulties understanding me, so I think it's really great that this is being thought of and, uh, this kind of device will be more common. I actually wanted to look for one maybe…


(Mario) There we go. How many minutes did it pass since we mentioned his new gadget? Fifteen?




(Mario) Ok,


(Tanja) yes


(Pawel) Yeah.


(Mario) Fifteen  minutes.


(Tanja) Is it already on the market or?


(Pawel) No, I think it's going to go out on the market sometime this year, but…


(Tanja) OK, we should be patient then.


(Pawel) Yes, but it’s it’s I mean…


(Hlynur) But you can bet that Pawel will buy the first one.


(Pawel) Yes.


(Mario) Yeah. You'll be a beta tester.


(Pawel and Hlynur) Yeah.


(Mario [through megaphone]) Test your face mask


(Pawel) What is also quite nice, it's not accessibility related or any, like, firsthand gadget you might think of is a smart perfume dispenser from Ninu or at least Ninu is the name of the product where you put a couple of base ingredients for a fragrance in a dispenser and then you use your iPhone and the companion iPhone app of the product to finetune the quantity of each ingredient, and this way you generate your own perfume in that way, your own fragrance. This is also quite interesting.


(Tanja) And what if you by mistake put too much quantity?


(Pawel) Ohh, that will be interesting what would come out of this. It's interesting whether the app actually has some pre-programmed measurements and it will try to stop you doing that


(Tanja) Mmhm.


(Pawel) or it will let you experiment and you’d just create something that smells awful, but…


That’s for…


(Tanja) [laughter]]


(Hlynur) So you could play you could play a prank on someone and add a bit of like garlic powder to their dispenser.




(Pawel) Yeah, yeah, probably. Probably. And then you could hack the app and do crazy things with it. Yeah. Yeah. Who knows.


(Tanja) Yeah.


Microsoft Azure Text to Speech neural voices


(Tanja) Ok, we can go to the next topic, which is about Microsoft Azure TTS service that offers new natural neural voices and they sound really, really amazing. I tried with the Croatian and French and Italian that they speak and it sounds really natural. Honestly, it sounds even more natural with French and Italian, probably because it happens always that bigger languages sound better because they're probably tested more thoroughly than small languages. So I don't know. But even the Croatian sounds amazing.


(Mario) Yeah, they really sound great. The first time I heard them, I got scared and I was like, hey, who's this on the other side talking? It's that good.


(Tanja) Oh yeah.


(Mario) I really, really hope that Microsoft. Will think about maybe making some kind of mobile versions of those Azure voices TTS voices, because, man, this sounds these sounds awesome. It really sounds great, especially I mean, Croatian sounds great. Those… They have, I think 3 voices. One is the Matej voice, which is already used in windows, which is not bad, but those new two ones are fantastic. It is as you would really you are listening to some live person.


(Tanja) Like real human.


(Mario) Yeah, yeah. Yes. It's crazy. And I can only think that for these newer languages, I mean, bigger languages, it sounds great. As a matter of fact, we will give some audio examples in the podcast so you can hear how it sounds.


(Examples of Microsoft neural TTS voices)

Hello dear EBU Access Cast listeners.

I'm new TTS Azure voice from Microsoft and I can speak many different languages and even their dialects. I hope you like what you hear!


(mario) But man, those Azure voices, they kick arse and really!


(Hlynur)  I listen to some of them.

And speaking about those larger languages, I was kind of. Surprised that Icelandic wasn't there.


(Mario) No, it's not,


(Hlynur) (laughter) But that is something that we are getting quite used to being left behind since there are under 400000 people in the world who speak Icelandic. But that is why we are working on governmental projects within Iceland, actually creating everything, all the data, all that needs to, like, create a new Icelandic voice or to have gadget's recognising voices in Icelandic understand the language. And so hopefully in a few years then maybe and they will be open source to everyone. So maybe finally Google and Apple will find the time to create Icelandic voices as well. But I do agree that those voices that I heard, they all sounded terrific.


(Mario) Yeah,


(Hlynur) I'm very happy for you guys.


(Tanja) Well, still, we cannot use them inside Narrator or text to speech. This is a pity for the moment. It's only available to developers to use these voices.

Inside the Azure service,


(Pawel) For generated announcements, I guess if there was a train station that wanted to use this for train announcements, for example, they would be able to buy the licence and generate the necessary data.

(Mario) Yeah, yeah,


(Pawel) but have you tried with Microsoft Apps because Microsoft Edge actually has this read reading feature where the TTS can read the article for you and at least Polish one of these voices is available there.


(Mario) It's true, but it's not completely integrated. The thing is that you can use it with the edge, but you don't see all the voices available, for example, for Croatian language, you just see the Matej one, which is also default in windows. OK, but you cannot use the newer ones, which sucks.


(Pawel) Yeah, that's interesting because for Polish we have one of the new voices there, one of the neural voices. Only one but still.

(Mario) Yeah, yeah, yeah. Maybe it will come, maybe it will come still. Maybe it comes in. Yeah. newer updates.


(Pawel) But what I find really great is that at last all of the official EU languages are supported. So if you think of all the languages where usually the companies left out, you mentioned Croatian but there is also Slovenian, there is Lithuanian, there is Latvian, Estonian, all of them are supported, Maltese even and Irish. And there is Gaelic, Irish, I think so really small languages where the big companies usually don't introduce the voices. And now all of them are there is like the whole EU is already covered as far as TTS is concerned, which is I think really great if we think of the European Accessibility Act and the TTS implementations for all the devices that will need to be accessible.

Um, also, the English voices have different styles, I don't know if you played around with this, like, uh, you can choose if the voice should be more like a news-style reporter or IVR system, like a phone answering machine or, uh, something else. There are different styles. And I think this is definitely targeted at


(Hlynur) Yeah. Commercial based.


(Mario) Yes, sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.

I remember when, you know, when there was a time when people used to travel around so many years ago (laughter).


(Hlynur) Many years ago. Yeah. (laughs)


(Mario) When you would go into certain airports, some of the announcement systems on the airport would be TTS based already.


(Tanja) Mm hmm.


(Mario) So I see that on those airports and train stations and et cetera. this kind of TTS voices would be absolutely welcome to use there. And and you do understand it perfectly.


(Tanja) You would think that a human is reading the announcement.


(Mario) yeah, sure.


(Pawel) I was also very impressed with the German voices because they even have German dialected voices. There is German, Germany, German, Austria and German, Switzerland. And whilst I well, I'm in Austria now, so I'm part used to people speaking Austrian German a little bit around me. And I heard the Austrian voices. They didn't sound much different. I just thought it's like another, German officials, the voice. And then I put on the Swiss German voices and you put you could put in like, uh, text written in German because Swiss German, for example, has a bit of a different spelling. Sometimes if you go deeper into the dialect, some words are spelled differently. But I put in like a German text written in German. And I tried with the I think 2 or 3 voices there, and I tried the first one, it was just normal and I tried the second one, the female one. And it even reproduced some of the characteristics of the dialect that suggest you wrote the text differently. So it was completely pronouncing the words like the person over there would. And it was really impressive. Like you could tell that phonetics is all right, that, uh, the endings are exactly alike in the dialect. And it was really impressive how it transformed a text that was written in German into Swiss, German. That was you would tell it was, uh, it was the original German text. It's really impressive.


(Mario) I also noticed that while listening to this newer Croatian voices, you could also, if you would put I put some like one page of text to listen to it. And while listening to this text, you could also hear a simulation of a person breathing, which was really scary.


(Pawel) Oh, yeah, that too,


Mario because this breathing thing started to be introduced in some of the Alex voice from Apple I think it was I found that that was OK for for that time when it was developed, it sounded OK, but it was a bit kind of unnatural. But right now, when you're listening to this, it's scary. You're hearing the person reading and then taking a new breath to continue reading. Well, OK. Yeah. So now we know how the robot's will sound like in 20 years or what, 20 years, even less.


(Pawel) There is also the option to play with SSML, which is like a programming language for the behaviour of text to speech synthesis. I don't know how to work this in that console in Azure, but, um, I'm pretty sure you can also do some interesting stuff with this if you know how to.


(Tanja) Can you imagine that in the future We just write the podcast and we load it to these neural voices?


(Mario) Yeah, well,


(Pawel)  it wouldn't have our character, though, I mean, the voices are great and everything, but what


(Hlynur) I would have tapes on Australian English.


(Pawel) OK, but not what I would find interesting, like podcasting would be. And I think already it's beginning to exist is like a podcast editor. That is like a text editor. So, for example, if one of us makes a mistake in the speech, you can see the text for the transcript. You edit out the mistake in text and it's replaced in voice. And I think there is already a solution like that that is being worked on.


(Tanja) Hmm.


(Hlynur) That's awesome.


(Tanja) Yeah, I noticed in some YouTube videos, sometimes people use text to speech voices instead of talking.


(Mario) Yeah,


(Tanja) OK.


(Mario) That's what I want to see as well.


(Tanja) We'll see in the future.


Earthquake Apps


(Tanja) But, I wanted to talk now about accessible applications for detecting or for warning about the earthquakes, because actually just before the new year or after the Christmas, there was a strong earthquake in Croatia.


(Mario) Actually, a series of earthquakes like, yeah, and the one of them was very strong, 6.2.


(Tanja) Yes, yes, unfortunately, our buildings are also not earthquake-proof.

Because in some areas where earthquakes are happening often, like in Japan, I guess also they constructed the buildings in the way so that they're not affected because actually for an earthquake, this was not, like, so strong. It was 6,4. It was strong But of course, if you have a building that is not resistant, then then it's too strong already.

But OK, coming back to what we can do, at least to be more safe. There are some applications that send warnings by push notifications on the mobile phone or work as add-on.

So I tried My Earthquake Alert application and iOS and I'm impressed because it is quite accessible. It is customisable. You can customise the location where you are and what notifications you would like to receive, like if there is an earthquake only nearby you or inside your country or continent or all. But I guess you would not would like to have all because there are many daily like one per hour or even more. And you can customise also the sound of the alert, which is nice, because very often on iPhone you cannot customise the sound on some applications, which I know that on Android you can do much more easily. So you can distinguish the sound of from this application from the other sounds. These application cannot predict the earthquake. There was another one called Earthquake Network that at least claims that it can predict earthquake or in short term time. But I did not find it accessible. I did not manage to see the list of recent earthquakes that I was able to see in my earthquake alert. And then at this application, my earthquake alert receives the information from EMSC.


(Mario) Various sources.


(Tanja) Yes, from different earthquake agencies like EMSC which is the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre and also some other centres. And also users can provide information If there was an earthquake, they can inform the others. And I think it's amazing because it's really, really accessible. So well, that is the most important thing, I think, for us. I don't know, how did you find it on Android? Mario.


(Mario) I found this Earthquake Alert also very accessible. It's very customisable, even you can customise it to the way how you want to have the data explained to you, because for people who can see, they can also see the exact location on the map where the earthquake happened. But if you don't want to have the map, you can just have the information presented in the table, which is for us a bit easier. you don't get so much clutter on the screen. All the things which you mentioned are also highly customisable. So you can really personalise it to the your needs. And yeah, it does work. If you. I mean, once you started monitoring. Because of the situations, once you start monitoring how many earthquakes happen, you actually surprised that you don't know for 90 percent of them during the day because they're not mentioned anywhere, but they're in fact, like the whole planet is the shaking all the time. So I was a bit disappointed by the EMSC app, which is an European agency. Like it's supposed to be a major main agency for earthquake reports in Europe.


(Tanja) Last Quake? the Last Quake?


(Mario) Yeah, yeah. That's there app from EMSC, It comes as the app for the phone. And you can also get it is the add-on for browser. Eventually you can also get it installed for Edge or for Chrome, and then you can customise it also to have different information. And it also has the possibility of using its own kind of TTS reporting that there was an earthquake somewhere. However. What's annoying about the whole application is that the developers are using the same interface for all different platforms and all of them are equally Well, let's say inaccessible or partially accessible. So you can read the content if you scroll through the app for like where the earthquake happened and stuff, but in terms of. Customisation, That's not customisable as the earthquake alert, that's the other area that we mentioned.


(Tanja)  well, on my side, in last quake, by using VoiceOver, I didn’t  manage to enter inside settings at all so I could not customise any notification or anything.


(Mario) I was able to do that on Android for the last quake. But even if I did it, it kind of reported to me that it changed something. But eventually I didn't see anything changed. So that's really an inaccessibility issue of the app. And as I stated, the interface looks the same, whatever you launch. So whether it's a website or you go through the add-on , which again points you to the website or you download the app on whatever form and platform, it's kind of mostly the same. So, yeah, that could be improved because, you know, this is something that belongs to everybody and basically it's a public service, so, yeah, people if you’re listening to that, please think about improving accessibility on that, because it's a shame that another app, which is a US based this earthquake alert, is a US based app. And the app is first of all much more highly customisable. Second, it's much more accessible on both platforms. And it. OK, it it's taking the information from more resources, so, yeah, but OK, the good point at the end is that we have something that we can use, as you know, people with the visual impairments that's customisable and that we can get alerts about it. That's good.


(Tanja) Yes, well, regarding Last Quake, for me, I had probably the default notification because yesterday I was alerted for an earthquake here close by Luxembourg on the French and German border. So I guess the notifications are by default. But of course, you cannot rely on this because I cannot enter into the settings part, for example, when I'm scrolling through the recent earthquakes, I can scroll by heading from country to country. So this is at least the scrolling part, it is accessible. If you open the app, you can get through it. But it is true that the other, My Earthquake Alert is much, much more accessible and also I was able to see much more data there. The list was much bigger.


(Mario) Yes, yeah, yeah,


(Tanja) yeah, yeah, yeah, so I don't know, I think I will continue to use both applications. There is no harm in using two of them to be safer. Hopefully they will not be earthquakes. But it's convenient to have. The two of them, I think.

I don't know, guys. Did you use any of such applications or I don't know, probably you have national warning systems like here we do in Luxembourg.


(Pawel) Yeah, exactly, for Poland. I can say there is the text messages based one


(Hlynur) Here too.


(Pawel)  which is only for the serious stuff. So, for example, when the new Covid rules came into being at the beginning of the quarantine rules and then the loosening of restrictions and so on, and also if there is going to be a really strong hurricane and so on. But we also have an app of the regional… called the Regional Warning Service or the Regional Warning System, and this is already region based, and there you get more granular information. So, for instance, if there is a disruption in some kind of train connexion, regular train connexion. There is a local or there is a car accident on one of the highways, and you would get that, you would get from the warning from the app, if the smog levels or air quality is dropping to some critical levels, you also get it. If there are some severe weather conditions, you will also get one. So for like a natural and like in severe events that could affect your commute, travel or being out and about, you will get push notifications. And the good part about it is that once you set it to one region, it will stay in that region. So even though I am in Austria, I am still getting information from home. So I know what's going on in the region where my parents still live. And if there is anything severe going on, I'll just call and check if they're all right.


(Tanja) And in Iceland, you say you have a similar system.


(Hlynur) Yeah, but not. Only for like a major event and the floods, we have no hurricanes here about like severe weather. Volcanic eruptions, some sort, but what Pawel is describing sounds actually very, very sufficient.


(Tanja) Mm hmm.


(Pawel) That also generates a lot of notifications and sometimes you don't care as much because the region is quite big and something happens somewhere on the other end where you have when you know nobody and there is no business that you do there and you still receive this. And sometimes I look at my notifications and I have like three or four from the system and there is actually nothing happening that should make me worried. But it's really good to for it to be there.


(Hlynur) Actually, on Iceland, we are I think we might still be quite old fashioned because you often just hear about these things in the news still.


(Tanja) Mm


(Pawel) hmm, mm hmm.

Well, the country's much smaller, too, so you don't need regional divisions for this. And but it would be good to have an app, right?


(Hlynur) Yeah. Like we do have some kind of different set like our emergency services they have an app. And, uh, also where you can notify them that, uh, let's say you're lost in the middle of nowhere. And so we can use to ask for help and it also automatically give them your location based on GPS. Then there is another app that we have, like from the Icelandic Weather Association. We would get like push notifications about any weather warnings, but that goes for the whole country. I think I haven't used it that much that long.

So there's a few different apps, no, like one universal app that will give you everything that you need to know. Which would be quite nice.


(Tanja) Yeah, I think here in Luxembourg there is this national warning system application.


(Mario) yeah there is.


(Tanja) But, you know, it never gave me an alert. So, I don’t know whether it works, but normally it should work.


(Hlynur) actually, maybe you just have nothing to worry about.


(Tanja) Yeah, yeah.


(Mario) To me it did.


(Mario) I did get once or twice some alerts.


(Tanja)  Really?


(Mario) Yeah.

Once I got the alerts for serious storm, which they were announcing.


(Tanja) Mm hmm.


(Mario) And I think that there was something related to the lockdown when we were in lockdown at the beginning. Hmm, but I don't remember exactly, because the thing is that you get the notification. And you can just read it and then it goes away, so you cannot retrieve it anymore. You cannot see hey what was that?


(Hlynur) Did you guys have, like a covid tracking app?


(Mario) In Luxembourg, no, they had a big debate over whether they should do it or not, and the thing was that the prime minister…


(Tanja) The government was not keen to this unfortunately.


(Mario) So we never got the covid tracing up in Luxembourg, even though there was a German app which was allowed to work under in Luxembourg.

But eventually, after a certain time, I removed it from my phone because first I found that it was using lots of resources on the Bluetooth. Second of all, when it was running, I had a problem, a problem on I don't know how it would be on my new phone because I don't have it. But on my older phone, I had a problem with the priorities. So it was always taking the priority over any other Bluetooth devices. So I would find that all the other devices which I would have connected would disconnect and I would need to reconnect them manually or restart my phone very often in order to get them connected again. It was like I mean, that was problematic. So, yeah, no, we didn't have it


(Hlynur) over here The only, Like the information was only stored on your mobile phone. Uh,


(Mario) sure.

Yeah, yeah, that was the same kind of thing which was planned to be. And these German app does the same.


(Hlynur) Yeah. But once you maybe once you have covid, then they can ask for your data just to help you remember where you were, where you've been and trying to figure out who you met. There was like one team that was working on just if we had like. And we of course, we didn't have like 20000 new cases per day at most, it went to 200 new cases per day, something around that. So we could have a team working, just contacting each individual that that got the virus and they would try to determine where he got it from and who he might have. Might have transmitted it to. And and all of those people were called and and put in quarantine. So there was like a system that they try to track each and every one down and get them first. They had to isolate and everyone that they could have transmitted it to, they had to go to a quarantine and get tested. So sometimes it's good to be small, yeah, we hardly looking at any cases right now. There are also very strict on on the borders as well.


(Mario) Yeah, eventually, Iceland at the moment is one of the countries with very, very strong restrictions, but that's why you have so little cases.


(Hlynur) Yeah, and we are quite, quite we're quite happy about it. And I would like to keep it that way.


(Mario) Well, I trust you on that. Like regarding the things which is happening at the moment with this newest soy of virus.


(Hlynur) The Brazilian and the British,


(Mario) yeah, yeah, yeah, it's kind of really tricky at the moment, but yeah. Yeah.


(Pawel) Yeah, there is an app for Poland and Austria, too, and it's are accessible, they're fine. I keep the, uh, the Austrian one on that all the time.


Facebook improves the automatic alternative text


(Tanja) Ok, so going to completely another topic, and this is about Facebook Automatic alternative text, which was improved. So for all screen reader users that are using Facebook, they probably noticed that the description of the images is now much more detailed. And if the person who posts the image does not provide alternative text, normally the image is recognised and there is the automatic description from Facebook that will be provided and read out by the screen reader. So they say that before their AI could recognise around 100 concepts. So this AAT started in 2016, but now when they improved it, it can recognise up to or even more than two thousand two hundred concepts, which is ten times more. And he can also give some more details like position of the object or person, like if there are two persons in the centre of the picture and some other behind, or if there's a house and the mountain and actually the mountains in the picture, it can give much, much more details. Did you try it? Do you use Facebook?


(Hlynur) I use Facebook, but I don't usually use a screen reader, so I haven't tried it out, but I like the kind of feature that they don't impose this on you, like you can long press, I think, on Android forget the detailed description of the picture. They don't enforce it on you every time or make you shut it off and turn it back on so we can like choose. It feels like it could be quite natural.


(Pawel) I haven't seen it yet, with with my Facebook interface. I wonder if this is localized straight away, this new concept. I hope they are. But what I also read this… yeah?


(Tanja) They say that it was translated in I don't remember how many languages, but that it was translated. But honestly, I tried it in English because my interface is in English, so I cannot tell for other languages.


(Pawel) Aha.


(Tanja) Yeah.


(Pawel) But I think I also read that it's supposed to recognise locations. So for example, if you were, I don't know, seeing the Tower in Pisa, it will tell you that the Tower in Pisa is in the photo. And sites like that, I don't know how many locations it’s able to recognise, but this is also nice, like having this contextual information about the surroundings in the photo. Or like the kinds of animals, most different kinds of animals, I think. I don't know if it recognises like breeds of dogs, for example, or just take more animal kinds.


(Mario) I think it would have, unless they have a certain species in the database.


(Pawel) Mhm.


(Tanja) Honestly, I don't know.


(Pawel) OK.


(Tanja) Yeah, I did not, I remember before they improved this, it was telling dog or cat, but it was always funny to me when it was seeing water, it was saying ocean, ocean or lake. And actually, the place where I’m coming from, we had the sea. We don't have the ocean. But it was funny that it was saying ocean. And I'm wondering, OK, can it tell whether there is a difference between ocean and sea, maybe only up to the location? So if we are close to the Adriatic Sea, you know, that is not an ocean, but, uh, yeah. Funny stuff with AI.


(Mario) Yeah, but definitely you're getting more information, very verbose, because, for example, last week I was doing a shooting for video shooting for my band and we published some photos on our Facebook page. And then I was looking at those with the Facebook on my phone and, yeah, it was able to describe how many people are there and a lot of stuff which eventually was there because I was there, so I knew that these objects were there, which the picture described. So eventually, yes, it kind of works, which is good.


(Tanja) Yeah. That's great, even though this does not mean that persons who would like to add alternative text, they don't have to. Of course, it was always advised to put the alternative text because it's possible and probably as author that is posting the image, you can provide even more details and maybe more accurate details. But it's good that we as users of assistive technology can have automatic descriptions because there are so many images on Facebook that it would be impossible that everybody's having alternative texts suddenly.


(Hlynur) Yeah, and also like, every kind of every picture tells a story that is more personal to get it from the author itself. I was just wondering, there have been some discussions here about Facebook and its lack of accessibility. Those users talking about it are usually like over 60 years old. How are, for example, you guys using Facebook? Are using the mobile app, are you using it on like a PC or are you, like using the browser for, like some people here are doing that, the old mobile version.


(Mario) Yeah, yeah, yeah. The thing is that up until it's a half year ago, the interface of the Facebook, the native one, which is usually when you go on the normal website, it was much worse for the accessibility than it is now. So eventually right now, I'm using just the native interface without any problems. Before that, I used to use them old m.facebook. But the thing with the m.facebook was that the interface itself was differently explained in different browsers. So you would get like kind of modern mobile interface in Chrome but if you would use Firefox, you would get the older interface and modern interface would have some more features. Video which the older one didn’t have. And it was. Yeah. But these were overgrown, but, um.


(Tanja) Yeah, sorry but there is also the disadvantage that some options in the mobile Facebook are not even available, you’re not aware that you can use some features because they were just not available or sometimes a service like Messenger was not working in mobile Facebook.


(Hlynur) But it actually was working until I think a few weeks ago.


(Mario) Yes, exactly. Now we know there is no more, yeah.


(Tanja) Yeah, yeah, yeah.


(Hlynur) And some very optimistic people here were asking me if I could just contact Facebook and ask them to put it up again on the mobile version.


(Pawel) Actually is not so bad to use if you turn on…


(Mario) Actually yes. That's what I wanted to say. Yeah.


(Pawel) If you turn on the browsing mode, not browsing mode but the form mode or application mode in the screen reader, you can just use tap shift+tab, up and down arrows, enter and you get anywhere you want, more or less, because you can navigate through the conversations list with your arrow keys and it will tell you that there is an unread message, for example, in a conversation, then you press Enter in the conversation. It will move you to, I think by default, the edit box for writing a message.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Pawel) And if you Shift + Tab, I don't know, one or two times you end up on the list of messages eventually where you can also navigate up and down arrows through the messages and then to the right, I think you'll find all the reaction and the reply and all the actions you can take for that particular message. So it's become really comfortable to use with the browser, but in that mode.


(Hlynur) Yeah, yeah, I think we we’re more or less talking about, like inexperienced users with screen readers. Do you know, well, I was searching the other day, I was searching for like a proper guide with proper instructions how to use screen reader on Facebook. Have you guys seen any of that or is that something that maybe that needs to be made to help, to help people use Facebook with screen reader?


(Mario) The thing is that the whole, I actually first of all, to answer your question, I don't know whether there is only a guide for Facebook or Twitter screen reader users. I don't think so, actually, because the thing is that since the Facebook really changes their interface very frequently.


(Hlynur) Yeah.


(Mario) If you would write down such a little book about it, which would be, I don't know, it's a 50 pages long that would be accurate as long as Facebook doesn't change something and they are changing stuff quite frequently.


(Hlynur) They do like to change. Yeah.


(Mario) Yeah. And this is something that we need to get used to. OK, as we are younger, we can accommodate to that those changes quite fast. And that's OK. The truth is that in order to get around the Facebook, you need to know how to use your screen reader quite efficiently.


(Hlynur) I think it's an interesting topic.


(Tanja) Ok.


Google and Samsung Collaboration on TalkBack


(Tanja) Ok, then, there was a development for TalkBack and collaboration with Samsung and Android or Samsung and Google. So would you like to talk about it?


(Pawel) Yes, sure, I could take it over. So this is another CES info, actually, because at the unpacked event of Galaxy 21 and the whole line up of Galaxies for this year, at the end, there was a person from Google who came up at the event and said that Google and Samsung are going to cooperate from now on building a brand new or like a revamped TalkBack experience for blind people. And apparently many of the requested features are going to be added. Then, uh, journalists from XDA Developers portal reached out to Google to ask for some details, like what kind of features are going to be added. And it turned out that they mentioned multi finger gestures, I don't know if they already mean the ones that are already there or there is going to be some more work on that. They mentioned unified menu, so I understand that they want to unify the local conte… and the global menu or make them more co integrated, the ability to customise the menus and the some new reading options. So these are like the sneak peak of what is going to happen. And first, this new TalkBack will be available on the Samsung Galaxy S21. And after some time, it will also come to other devices as an update. And this is quite interesting, because when we mentioned the fact that, uh, Samsung is dropping their voice assistant, they are going back to TalkBack, but it turns out that actually the TalkBack that is on the galaxy phones as of Android 11 is not exactly the Google TalkBack that we know. It's a modified Samsung version of TalkBack, which has some interesting options, but also some options missing.


(Mario) Yeah, pretty much, yes.


(Pawel) And one of the big missing things is the Braille keyboard, sadly, which was only announced in April and now I'm wondering whether this is going to go this way, that Samsung will update the TalkBack and take over the Braille keyboard or Google will somehow, I don't know, go back with this and which I hope will not happen. I don't think it will happen. But well, we have to consider this, seeing what's already there on Samsung, that they will somehow go back with this Braille keyboard and not offer it anymore. Um, but it's definitely to be seen when the S21 comes out, if they keep to, uh, what is in the Galaxies of today, then definitely there will be some granularity options for, uh, typing echo. There is the option to choose characters, characters and words and nothing and so on. Um, yeah, there is a customisation of the menus, from what I know, there is the ability to mute speech without muting the sounds of, uh TalkBack. Which is also quite nice because then you can still navigate and you can still do some things, but you can, for example, mute the speech for meetings so it doesn't accidentally start speaking like, OK your phone is on mute, but suddenly somebody calls you. So still your TTS will start speaking stuff and we wouldn’t like to do that. On iOS, this is this has been there since ever. So it would be good to have it finally here as well. I think from what I heard in some demo of this new Galaxy TalkBack think. There is also the ability that still does not work of all languages to execute certain voice commands, but I'm not sure which ones. And also in the developer section of TalkBack settings on Galaxy, there is some option which says picture recognition so I think there is some work being done on AI and something like the screen recognition feature of IOS 14. But it's not really public yet, as in you can’t test it. There is just this option there. So maybe it's a placeholder for something in the future or maybe they have it disabled for regular users, maybe there's some internal test going on, but there is something happening for sure and it will be really interesting to see in which direction this cooperation goes, and I'm really happy to see that, uh, well, instead of fighting each other, these two companies that had some good ideas, definitely, both of them, because if we remember, like the history, there was this period of silence from Google’s side where there were new versions of TalkBack and this was basically the time where Samsung came out with voice assistant and everybody was like, yay, there is somebody doing something on the Android front that more or less starts to look like iOS with the multi finger gestures and the magic tap and some other options. So Samsung was the sort of accessibility king on the Android side for a bit. And then TalkBack somehow came back into the game, into the game, and Samsung was sort of falling behind. So it's really good to see that those two will now cooperate. And I really hope this will improve both the release cycle. So we will have the updates more often and the quality of it. And hopefully this cooperation will last for some time and will not just be a marketing thing to throw out there.


(Mario) It really was confusing, that situation really started to be confusing at the end of November and beginning of December when people started to receive Android 11 updates on some of the devices, especially S20 phones, because people were saying from all over the globe that they have their phones updated and that in the same time they have a new TalkBack, which is now from Samsung and that they don't have any more of the Braille keyboard on the phone, which was really a huge step back. And Google didn't say a word about it. In the same time, people were saying that they've tried to install the official Google Accessibility Suite from the Play Store, and they couldn't do it on their Samsung phones, which added even more confusion to the home, to the whole pile. And I contacted Google Disability Support about two weeks ago, and the person on the other side told me that they don't have a clue what's happening and that they’d need to make internal investigation about what's going on. And then like a day later, I saw this test announcement about Google and Samsung doing working on the new TalkBack. So I really would like to believe that this will be worked out and that people will receive new, however we want to call it, Samsung Galaxy or Galaxy TalkBack updates, the positive thing about all of this mess is that when people started to receive the updates for the Samsung S20 I was able to find the Galaxy TalkBack exists on the Galaxy store, so that gave me  kind of the confidence that I could say that the this will be updated through the Galaxy source or not, the Google Play store. But the Galaxy story, which comes with the basically all the Samsung phones. However, as I'm looking at it now in Europe, if I try to search for a Galaxy TalkBack, again on the Galaxy Store, I'm not able to find it anymore. And maybe that's because it's only, that they kind of made the restrictions that it's able to be seen only from the devices which have Android 11 which makes kind of sense, but yeah, at one point I saw it available on the Galaxy store and now I cannot see it anymore, but I would like to believe that it will, you know, fold in place. And that will be updated, as it should be, because, yeah, eventually this collides with the next news topic, which we have. Tanja, that's the update for Samsung phones, right?


(Tanja) Yeah, you can continue with that one.


Samsung's European Android 11 schedule update


(Mario) Yeah. Yeah. So that that collides with the whole updating scale for all the Samsung phones that are able to go for the updates for Android 11, and that there is like, I don't know, 30 phones on the list so my new phone, which I purchased a few months ago as well, so I could see, for example, that my phone is supposed to get Android 11 in March. And Hlynur, you have A70 which would be getting in, would be getting in May.


(Hlynur) Yeah.


(Mario) The update in May. So I really would like to believe that this, you know, all of this mess about TalkBack missing some functions and that it should be updated to the newest version compatible with the official Accessibility Suite will be sorted out until the right time comes, because right now it's really a mess around what's happening. And I think that at this moment, people who have Samsung Galaxy S10 should be getting Android 11 on their phones, so if we have any S10 users on the show who are our listeners and they got the update to Android 11 and if you are using Braille keyboards, please let us know if the keyboard is there or if it's hidden somewhere, it might be possible, I'm not 100 percent sure because I don't have any device for testing nearby, but considering the fact that they really revamped the look and feel of the whole TalkBack, it might be that the keyboard is still there somewhere, but it's hidden maybe under developer settings. Who knows what? Maybe it's really not there but as far as we were being told and it was we could see from the podcasts certainly that for the moment, for the moment, that's not the case. I don't know Pawel, whether you have some extra info.


(Pawel) No, not really, not at the moment, but maybe somebody also manages to get a hold of the new S21, so then we will also know if the TalkBack there is the same as what people have already got on Android 11 or it's something updated.


(Hlynur) Maybe it’s something for a new gadget.


(Pawel) No, I'm fine with my phone for now still, so although it's not receiving 11, but thank you.


(Tanja) Then you say you will receive the update in March?


(Mario) Yeah, I'm supposed to receive the update in March. Whether this is beginning of March or the end of March, I don't know. They don't say the dates. Usually if it goes by the monthly updates to them receiving, then maybe it should be already at the beginning of March, because that's when usually the updates come. But yeah, let's wait and see. I have about a month and something to wait and then we will see what's going on.


(Tanja) So maybe the next episode they will be able to share your experience.


(Mario) Yeah, if I get, absolutely, if I get any news until the next episode, I will be glad to share it with the listeners.


Accessibility posters on mouse pads


(Tanja) Ok, and then talking about accessibility stuff, there are some accessibility posters that were shared like a few years ago from UK Home Office and in Iceland, you have a nice project with these posters.


(Hlynur) Yes, we do. We thought that it could be a good idea once I saw these posters just shortly after I started working as a accessibility consultant here. These are like six or seven or eight posters with, like six do's and don'ts in regards to digital accessibility, like what to do and what not to do. And it was just so simple, it was so magnificently well put out, it was like no brainer things, but still something that needed to be mentioned. So we decided to do a top 10 for do's and don'ts in regards to accessibility for blind and visually impaired. We decided to use a top ten because if we wanted to keep it all, it was going to be such a small print that it couldn't have been read. And I don't know, some people might have an issue with us making an accessibility mousepad, which was not accessible.


(Tanja) Mhm, yeah.


(Hlinur) So if I were to describe it for you, I can maybe read out the top 10 also.


(Tanja) Uh-hm.


(Hlinur) We have split it into four columns like two and don't and don't down with five lines. So the first do is like to make buttons descriptive. And we have a picture that's of as a button that says ”Attach file”. And then don't make buttons vague and unpredictable, and then we have a picture of another button that says “Click here”. And we have no idea what it’s going to do if we do that. The second do and don't, do describe images and provide transcripts, like with an all text. And don't only show information in an image or a video. Do structure content using HTML and don't rely on text size and placements for structure. Oh, God, I hate that one. And do follow a linear, logical layout and don't spread content all over the page. The picture there is like, if you have a a 100 percent zoom on your browser, it looks great. But if you go up to a 200 percent zoom, then. You don't see the whole page, you just see the half of it and you have like to scroll down and also scroll to the right to see everything. Do allow users to choose their preferred contact method when booking appointments. And don't make telephone the only means of contact for users because, of course, e-mail suits for some people, but not everyone. Same goes with phone calls and chats and so on. Do make large clickable actions and don't demand precision, there we are talking about like for those who are visually impaired, if you have to click something and it's just a very small dot. I mean, you can't maybe see it, if your hands are shaking, then maybe you will always miss it and so on. Design for keyboard or speech only use and don't make dynamic content that requires a lot of mouse movement. Do use clear, concise language and don't use complicated words or figures of speech. Do break up contact with subheadings images and videos and don't make users read long blocks of text. Do keep content short, clear and simple and don't rely on accurate spelling.Iinstead use suggestions or some kind of other format. So this is what we, just in the beginning, we started making just 100 copies of the mousepad. And the idea was that because I have a lot of meetings and a lot of presentations with many Icelandic companies which are who are working on apps and websites and, and all sorts of equipment. That this is kind of a gift that we give to them, for them to have it before their eyes, once they start working until they go home. And this has been, yeah, people have been very interested in in this project since  a few months ago when we released the product first, but of course, shortly after it was ready, then I wasn't allowed to meet anyone in person for a whole year because of some sort of flu which we all know about.


(Tanja and Mario laughing) Yeah.


(Hlynur) But I'm hoping to get it out there in this year, 2021, this will be my year.


(Tanja) Yeah, no, but I think the project is really nice and as I'm also working on accessibility, it's fine on the training when you tell people, you know, you do you do this all this nice stuff and everybody's agreeing, yeah, OK. If that makes the interface more accessible for you, that's fine. But yeah, it's a really logical and then they go back to work and probably they remember only one thing or two things from the 10 or 20 that you mentioned.


(Hlynur) Definitely. It’s a lot of information in a very short time.


(Tanja) Yeah. Yeah. And then this is a really nice reminder because you have it all the time in front of you. So it's great, maybe other companies can do the same or you should start distributing and selling this all over the world, you should patent it.


(Pawel) Yeah, you should. This is your business idea. When you mentioned at the beginning of the show, you have none, you should go international with this, like I'm having your ideas right now.


(Hlynur) Unfortunately, that can't be that can't happen because we can't use this content for a commercial business. But this is something that we would like to give away. And because the posters as well, they are quite good. They have posters for screen reader users, which of course includes Google, for visually impaired, for people with difficulty with hearing and anxiety also. And these posters can, of course, just be used as posters and just printed out. They are stored in GitHub and they have been translated also into a few other languages as well. So if we would maybe provide the link in the description, you should definitely do that.


(Pawel) Is this poster already like pre-formatted for the pad? Because maybe it would be possible if you cannot sell it but people just request this precise poster, uh, with some company like local company that makes gadgets, promo gadgets, that they would print this out on a regular mousepads custom made for you for for the presentation or something.


(Hlynur) Yeah. That it was always on my agenda to, like, release the mousepad format back into GitHub. People are doing that. Those who are translating into French, Spanish, German and many other languages, they are releasing their translations back into GitHub. So everyone is working together, which is quite nice.


(Pawel) So the mouse pad format will be there as well or is it already there?


(Hlynur) I promise you it will be there.


(Pawel) OK, good, good.


(Hlynur) Now I know I've made a promise to everyone, to the whole world.


(Pawel) Great.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Hlynur) It shall be done.




(Tanja) Ok, and this leads us to the end of this show, so…


(Mario) Really, is it over?


(Tanja) It is over. It is quite long today.


-(Mario growling) Man!


(Tanja) But feel free to contact us.


(Mario) Yeah, we talk a lot. Sorry people. We talk a lot.


(Tanja) Feel free to contact us via email on or at EBU Access Cast on Twitter and share your comments with us or ideas, proposals, demos, if you have, some new interesting gadgets that you would like to share with us. And we will be back in six weeks.


(Mario) Yep, we will be back in six weeks. That's about the fifteenth of March or something like that, because we should be out at the beginning of February with the current episode. So, yes. We would like to say thanks once more to the people who are sending  us our contributions for the last episode, we had the Envision glasses from Benjamín. That was great. So, yes, if you have any more contributions. Yeah. Do contact us and we'll be happy to arrange something for you for showing up the product.


(Tanja) Yeah, thank you guys, and talk to you next time.


(Hlynur) Thank you. Bye bye.


(Pawel) Bye.


(Mario and Tanja) Bye.




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