1998 Conference Proceedings

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PLEXTOR is a Long Playing CD Book for the Next Generation of
"Digital Talking Books"

Mr. Motoaki Kaneko, Vice President


Imagine what a talking book player for the visually impaired is going to be in the next generation of the digital age. PLEXTALK is the first Digital Talking Book Player for the visually impaired which fully utilize the features and advantages of optical technology.

This paper will present a detail technical description of two PLEXTALK units which are to be released in the Spring of 1998. It will also describe the features and functions which are available to these devices

Through this paper, the readers will be able to understand the general usage of PLEXTALK units. For the non-profit institutions or organizations which are already interested in acquiring these units for their members or clients, the information contained in this material is extremely helpful, since it will help them realize even further the benefits of having these devices. This document will also assist those who are already using conventional analogue talking books in seeing that PLEXTALK is a better alternative over other products.

1. PLEXTALK 6 : The First Retail Version

In this April, Plextor will release PLEXTALK 6, the first retail version of the Plextor CD Digital Talking Book Player. Previously, several beta versions were produced and undergone a series of field testing which were conducted worldwide. The people from various demographic segments as well as those who have different levels of education used the proto-types of PLEXTALK on trail bases. After analyzing the feed backs received from these people, and revising the products based on these data, we are now proud to announce that PLEXTALK Version 6 meets the highest quality of standard, which, we believe, is ready to be released in the general public. We are confident that this product will serve the needs of the visually handicapped and libraries for the blind around the world.

1.1 The Types of the CD Format Which Are Playable on PLEXTALK

Several CD formats are compatible to PLEXTALK. One is DAISY formatted digital talking books. The unit also supports other data compression technologies recommended by the DAISY Consortium. The data compressed by MPEG compression, which can store up to 50 hours of human recordings on one CD, can be also read by PLEXTALK. Besides these special formats, PLEXTALK can also play standard music CDs. It has the ability to detect the CD format and read the information accordingly. When a new compression technology is introduced, we will upgrade the unit to be compatible to the newýformat.

1.2 One Book in One CD

With MPEG compression, 50 hours of human recordings can be stored on one CD. You will no longer be annoyed by being obligated to manage many audio cassettes with multiple tracks as you are when using analogue talking book players. One easy-to-load CD can contain theýinformation of the entire book.

The CD is protected in a caddy. This allows the users to easily remove the CD and return to the library without accidentally damaging the data by touching or scratching the surface of the CDs. Furthermore, PLEXTALK remembers the bookmarks placed by the users. Thus, the users can quickly return to the portion where they left off. The system will remember up to 20 books at any one time. It will automatically recognize the CD and recall all of the bookmarks on which they are placed. These special features allow PLEXTALK to be more user friendly than any other talking book players available in the market.

1.3 Voice prompts

Considering acute,special physical conditions of the majority of the customers who will be using this device, the voice prompt and message feature is added in PLEXTALK Thus, all of the prompts and messages which guide the customers how to use the vital functions of this unit are provided in a natural human voice. The samples demonstrated here is English version However, the versions with other languages will also be available for the customers whose native language is not English.

1.4 Basic Functions
1.4.1 PLAY / STOP

A single button controls play and stop functions. Press the button once and it will start playing. Press the same button again and it will stop.

1.4.2 Forward and Backward

One key controls moving backward and another key moves Forward. Notice the size and potion of the keys. The design makes it easy for any person to use.

1.4.3 Volume

A single knob controls the volume. Turning the knob to the right will turn up the volume while turning the knob to the left turn the volume down.

1.4.4 Speed Control

A knob is also used for controlling speed. Turn the knob to the right a nd the speed increases. Turn the knob to the left and the speed decreases. Notice how the quality of the sound remain unchanged when the knob is turned The Pitch control which is applied in this device prevents the player from producing kinky sounds or Donald-Duck-voice when the speed is altered. This player supports the reading speed up to three times faster than the normal. It can also reduce the playback speed by 75% . We decided to add this feature after realizing the importance of this function during beta testing.

1.4.5 Tone Control

The third knob is used to control the tone. We realized after the beta testing that this feature is vital particularly for the elderly who appeared to have a wide range of tone preferences

1.5 Index: The Special Feature of PLEXTALK

One of the features which distinguishes PLEXTALK from any other existing analog talking book players is " Index " functions.

1.5.1 Three types of indexing : Tree / Page / Bookmark

The following three types of indexing functions are featured in PLEXTALK: Tree index, Page index and bookmark index. You can control these functions by using a ten key pad and ten cross keys. The layout of this ten key pad is exactly the same configuration as those of a telephone key pad. Thus, you can easily recognize the position of each number.

1.5.2 Tree index

In the Tree index, you can either NAVIGATE by the table of contents such as chapter 1, chapter 2 and chapter 3, or by sections, sub-sections and sub-headings. You can jump into the book according to its table of contents, or you can input the chapter or section number and jump to its position. If you would like to know the name of the current chapter, push the tree index. You will hear the current position in the table of contents. This is one of the unique and convenient functions of PLEXTALK which is impossible for any analog cassette player to provide.

1.5.3 Page index

Using the Page index functions, you can move to a different part of the book by a page number such as page 1, page 2 or page 100. Simply input the page number you would like to read and push the page button. Or push the " * " key for previous page and push the " # " key for next page. If you want to know the current page number, just push the page number key.

1.5.4 Bookmark

With the bookmark function, you can place a bookmark on any sections you wish. It will also allow you to jump to the bookmark positions. Just push the bookmark set button at the sections which you would like to place a bookmark. Then, input the bookmark number you would like to assign. Or push the " * " key for previous bookmark and push the " # " key for next bookmark.. For one book, up to 20 bookmarks can be placed by the single user.

1.6 Other features : Time / Undo / Redo

This section will explain Time announcement and Undo / Redo function.

1.6.1 Time announcement

When you push the time key in the stop mode, PLEXTALK will announce the total hours of book. When you push the time key during the playing mode, PLEXTALK will announce the past playing time and the remained playing time.

1.6.2 Undo / Redo

If you do not desire to use the current function or if you want to go back to the previous function, push " UNDO " button. You can go back to the previous operation. If you want to use the same function one again, push " REDO " button.

1.6.3 More functions : Rechargeable battery / AC 90 - 250 V Input / PC connectivity.

PLEXTALK can memorize various bookmarks of the 10 CDs which are recently played on the machine. The unit with rechargeable battery is available. You can use AC input from 90V to 250 V depending on countries in which the units will be used. The PC connectable unit is also available.

1.7 Future development

We are planning on developing Portable / Recordable model in the future. Development of DVD model is also under consideration.

2. Release announcement : April 1998

We are pleased to inform you that PLEXTALK is available from this coming April. It will first be released in Japan and some other countries as pilot production. Then, we will release the products worldwide probably sometimes in August or in September. If you have any questions regarding the exact release date of PLEXTALK in your region, please contact us.

3. Price : US$400

It is vital that PLEXTALK reach as many population of the visually impaired as possible, because we believe that every person has a right to enjoy reading books with ease. Thus, our objective is to set the price which should be reasonable both from our stand point and those of the customers.

Considering these factors, we decided that the price of PLEXTALK be US$400,which should be affordable for most of the non-profit institutions or organizations for the visually impaired.

4. Background of PLEXTALK : Why ?

In this section, I will briefly explain the general background of the PLEXTALK Project. This information might help you understand our true intention of developing this particular product. We have devoted nearly five years for completing this project since its initiation in 1993.

4.1 Ministry of Health and Welfare

We had a call from one of the staff from Ministry of Health and Welfare in Japan. He suggested us that we consider to enter the Talking Book market by developing the product based on the CD drive technology. He was confident that we would be able to accept his challenge, since he believed that PLEXTOR was one of the leading companies in CD and speech compression technology.

4.2 IFLA / SLB

We initiated our research by attending IFLA / SLB which was held in Cuba. This was suggested by Mr. Hiroshi Kawamura who used to be a chairman of IFLA / SLB for nearly 10 years. After the conference, we continued with conducting market research. Not only did we attend IFLA every year, which was held in Istanbul, China, and Denmark, but we also attended user's meetings such as BUT meetings and NFB convention held in 1997. Based on these market research, we realized that there were needs for both Libraries and users. Thus we initiated the development of PLEXTALK CD Talking Book Player. During our research, we were also deeply involved in the DAISY project.

5. Worldwide Beta Testing :

International Experts Committee on World Field Testing helped us tremendously in terms of improving PLEXTALK. In the summer of 1997, the extensive beta testing of PLEXTALK took place at International Experts Committee on World Field Testing of DAISY/PLEXTALK. The total number of 400 units were tested in 35 countries. The chairman who was in charge of evaluating our products was Mr. Hiroshi Kawamura.

The committee members who provided us a valuable input consisted of not only from the members of the Library for the Blind but also from the representatives of the prime users of PLEXTALK: the members of World Blind Union and European Blind Union. CSUN was also generously participated in this field test . Fortunately, we received many positive inputs from the Field Test. We have also respected the feed backs and analyzed them carefully, and based on these data, we have improved and completed the final version of the PLEXTALK. This unit or PLEXTALK Version 6 will finally be released in this coming April.

6. US

In the US, we have communication with RFB & D, some user group such as NFB and AFB and Schools and Universities. I hope we can keep good communications with them too.


In this finally section, I will briefly explain about our company PLEXTOR and the provider of PLEXTALK, Shinano Kenshi.

7.1 About Shinao Kenshi / PLEXTOR :

Shinano Kenshi has began in the textile industry in 1918 but understood early on that Japan's industrial structure would be growing progressively more advance. These insights led to its successful expansion into such technology-driven, knowledge-intensive filled as precision motor as electrical division since 1962, electronic equipment as electronic equipment division since 1972 and printing equipment as printing equipment division since 1993. Most of its products are ranked among the top in the world in their field.


PLEXTOR is the sales and marketing company for Shinano Kenshi. Some of the products such as CD-ROM Drive has very good reputation under brand name of " PLEXTOR " with high quality and leading CD-ROM Drive industry image.

7.2 Worldwide Operation Map :

We also realize the importance of international markets and has worldwide operations. In the US we have two offices : PLEXTOR CORPORATION in Santa Clara, California since 1990 and SHINANO KENSHI CORP in Los Angles, California since 1982. In Europe : PLEXTOR S.A./N.V. in Belgium since 1993. In China : SHINANO KENSHI Co.,Ltd. in Hong Kong since 1986 and Dung Guan Shinano Kenshi Motor CO.,Ltd. in Guangdong since 1994. In Asia SHINANO KENSHI ( Thailand ) CO.,Ltd. since 1987.

7.3 About Electric Equipment Division :

Audio Electric equipment division was established in 1972 and started from analog circuit parts. In 1976 we started Tape based BGM ( Back Ground Music ) Player and has with high reliability. In 1989 we started CD-ROM Drive and CD-BGM Player products. With the development of these products, we accumulated CD / CD-I / CD-ROM Technology and Speech Encoder and Decoder technology. And now we investigated PLEXTALK since 1993 and speech processing such as MPEG Decoder and variable speed technology.

It's our please to devote our talents, knowledge and technology to contribute to visually handicapped people.

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