Saturday, April 09, 2005

Future TV ... and access to it.

Back on the futurology path again.

Convergence is coming. Everyone has been talking about how media, communications and computers are all going to converge. You can really see that TV, as it is now, is going to die. You've seen Star Trek: The Next Generation? They don't stil watch TV in the 24th century. I'm not entirely sure we'll be still watching TV come 2015. Not in the way we know it.

Broadband connections are getting faster which means more can be delivered to your home, more quickly ... and down your phone line! Who'd have thought that little copper wire could be the solution? ADSL2+ looks as if it will be rolled out from the third quarter of this year by BT. Currently you might have a 576k, 1 or 2 meg broadband connection. Well with this new system, we're talking 16 megabytes per second! That's instant high quality TV and then some. IPTV they're dubbing it, or Broadband TV. IPTV is a protocol Microsoft are working on. And we mustn't forget your mobile. 3G is broadband for your mobile and will deliver TV and allsorts too, wherever you are.

The TV universe could be similar to the internet, though with a simplified Electronic Programme Guide. Life and everything could be documented and on sale through that box. So, in the evening, you might end up watching a live lecture about cubism on The Tate Modern Channel. Your next door neighbour may be watching a live REM concert from Madrid on her mobile whilst on the tube. And her neighbour could be watching an old episode of Tiswas from February 1981, on demand, that he found on someone else's favourites list, someone whose tastes matched his in a Favourites Search he had done. Who knows.

Satellite could become meaningless. Rumours abound that Murdoch is really anxious that he has put so much money into giving away lots of free hardware: all those Sky Digital dishes and set-top boxes. get this, you could be getting all your TV universe needs down your existing phone line. All the new freeview and Sky boxes have got USB ports in the back. You'd just connect your broadband up to the back of your telly as well as to your PC. No dishes or dish install companies necessary. Pop down Dixons and plug n'play.

We consider electricity a necessity these days. You're not a proper modern person if you dont' have electricity in your home. Bt say that broadband is going to have that same status in years to come. You can see it happening now, more this year than any other.

One of my fave websites at the moment is Digital Lifestyles. Sometimes it's a bit techie but other times not. It's the new technological innovations that are going to drive our new digital lives, though. Inform ITV is another good site about interactive TV.

I've not even mentioned Sky Plus or TiVo yet!

I'm pretty anxious, as a visually impaired person, that as convergence grows, I move further away from being able to access content that others are seeing as pretty standard more and more now. Hardware just isn't addressing the issue. I can't access onscreen menus on a set-top box. It would be relatively simple, we think, to add a speech synth in to boxes as standard, or some other way of giving audio navigation. Mobile phones, PVR, DVD, iPods, digital TV and ironically also radio is becoming less accessible.

The odd accessible solution rears its head but visually impaired people are often a generation behind what everyone else is doing. For instance, there is no such thing as a truly accessible video recorder ... can you believe that???? And now, as we know, some electrical stores have decided not to sell VCRs any more because they're old technology. What happened there, then? How didn't a lasting integrated solution arise over the 25 years that video was king?

Integrated solutions have to be the way forward. Legislation should be passed, or something, to ensure that disabled people don't get left behind in the swooping new digital revolution. Currently the DDA doesn't cover products, though arguably some of these things are more like services and hence should be covered.

Rumour has it that Sky are concocting a fantastic new accessible digital set-top box, though. It's very hush hush. Confidentiality agreements have been signed. Everyone is very excited about it. But no public announcements until the middle of 2006. I need to know more. I've heard this from 3 sources now.

There's more:

• inaccessible iPods and music download sites could mean music will be inaccessible in the very near future as the industry stops manufacturing so many CDs and rely on their download sites. iTunes apparently has 1.5 million transactions per day! Julie Howell mentions this in the latest New Beacon [not available to link to online]. Blind people not being able to buy and listen to music, many would consider that an absurdity.

There's much more but I'll leave that for another occasion.


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