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Talking Set-Top Box Hit OZ

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Set top boxes now talk to you.

Minister for Communications announced the rollout of talking set-top box technology to OZ on Friday, part of its Household Assistance Scheme (HAS).

Talking set-top boxes are designed for the blind or vision impaired to navigate electronic program guides, onscreen menus, TV settings – and even has talking instructions for the remote control.

Text-to-speech technology is used to describe programs; menu items and layouts; helping the visually impaired work the box without hassle.

The new box technology also offers the ability to change the style of speech used.

The roll out is part of the Government’s Digital Switchover and will be provided to eligible recipients from next month.

The Gillard government’s controversial set top box program to help the elderly or disadvantaged switch over to digital TV costing $350 per install, drew negative publicity last year for seemingly inflated costs .

The Household Assistance Scheme will kick off in northern NSW.

 “The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that no-one is left behind in the switch to digital-only television,” Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy said.

“After a successful trial in Victoria, talking set-top boxes will be made available to eligible recipients who receive a maximum rate pension because they are legally blind, or because they care for a child who is legally blind.”

Legally blind recipients will not have to do anything extra to receive the talking set-top box—once they opt-in to the Household Assistance Scheme, they will be identified as being eligible and the talking box will be installed free-of-charge.

The Government is currently in discussions with disability support groups to facilitate distribution and installation of the new talking set top boxes retrospectively in each of the four previous switchover areas.

More than 90,000 eligible households have already been helped to switch to digital TV through the set top box scheme, to date, according to the Dept. of Communications.