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UK’s First Inbuilt Text-To-Speech TVs Hit The Shelves

Electronics manufacturer Panasonic has built text-to-speech functionality into 30 of its television models, designed specifically to help blind and visually impaired users, making them the first such TVs to become available on the UK general market.

After switching on the function during installation, text-to-speech will be present over a wide range of tasks in the televisions, including speaking the channel number and name of a programme when switching channels; the time that a programme begins and ends; and whether other accessibility features such as audio description are available for a programme.

Text-to-speech assistance is provided on connecting to a Wi-Fi network through the TV, and users can also to scroll through a TV’s electronic programme guide and listen to the list of programmes, timing information and a synopsis of each programme.

Speaking to E-Access Bulletin, Nigel Prankard, IPTV and digital TV solutions centre manager at Panasonic, said a lower implementation cost of text-to-speech in recent times had enabled the company to offer the functionality

“If you asked us to introduce text-to-speech [into our televisions] two years ago, the extra cost would have been significant, but with the onset of activity in the IT world, the implementation costs of text-to-speech have come down, enabling us to put it into the TVs without passing on the cost to customers”, Prankard said.

Panasonic worked with the Royal National Institute of Blind People to build the text-to-speech function, undertaking user-testing with a prototype before gathering feedback and making improvements to the final design.

Prankard said he hopes to further improve the functionality and add more features if there is positive feedback from the initial models, possibly looking at how text-to-speech could work for internet-connected TVs. “The W3C [World Wide Web Consortium] are trying to make more regulatory requirements for web accessibility, so we may have to think how TVs could handle [web accessibility requirements] if we give them the full ability to go to websites”, he said.


  1. Shane Hogan | March 30th, 2012 | 2:02 pm

    I wonder if the talking TV will work with every programme guide, regardless of who the TV network is? Will it work with Sky, UPC, Freeview/Saorview etc?

  2. Nigel Timbrell | April 1st, 2012 | 10:34 am

    As a totally blind gentleman although not seen it it can be only a step in the right direction from Panasonic inputting in text to speech software into their TV sets. My concern would be how many people who need this facility are going to go out and purchase a brand-new TV set? It would be interesting to see if Panasonic can fit a component into existing TV sets to enable text-to-speech in our own TV sets instead of going out to purchase a new one.
    An argument I have had just like the talking free view box from the RNIB no doubt these will only be available to those people who have not switched over and not to existing ones.
    It seems discrimination to those disabled people who had no choice to make do what was available at that time but not allowed to have what is available today under the similar system.

  3. Nigel Timbrell | April 1st, 2012 | 10:39 am

    Given time it will be interesting to see if the text to speech will be available for existing TV sets at a reasonable cost.

  4. Luca | April 2nd, 2012 | 8:30 am

    great news! i wonder if text to speech will be available for other languages than English and whenn… and would be useful to know the exact tv models with tts eenabled… any hint?

  5. Panasonic | April 18th, 2012 | 12:51 pm

    In response to Shane Hogan, the TV will only respond to the programme guide of the TV’s direct tuner input (Freeview,Freesat, Saorview) guides depending upon the model you have purchased and reception mode you are using. The Speech function cannot operate to the information of external devices such as Sky boxes or receivers connected by SCART or HDMI

  6. Panasonic | April 18th, 2012 | 12:54 pm

    In response to Nigel Timberell, we can totally understand your comments and to a small extent frustration, unfortunately with new emerging technologies it is not so simple to adapt existing TV’s to accomodate the needs of the new technology.

  7. Panasonic | April 18th, 2012 | 1:02 pm

    In response to Luca, as this is our first implementation of tet to speech we have no plans to provide this years products with any additional languages. The problem with additional languages is the memory constraints to store the voice library. We are considering what to improve for next year’s models, I will raise the issue of range of languages with the developers.
    May be I can ask a question to you, in relation to your question are you looking for just one language, (the right language for you), or multiple languages?
    In relation to models you will find this functionality on various screeen sizes from 32inch up to 65 inch where the end of the model number end in VT50B or GT50B, or ST50B, or UT50B,or XT50B, or WT50B,or DT50B, or ET50B,or, ET5B, or E5B.

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