1999 Conference Proceedings

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Platform Independence and Interoperability in DAISY Talking Books

George Kerscher
Project Manager
PM to the DAISY Consortium
Recording For the Blind & Dyslexic
Email: kerscher@montana.com 
Phone: 406/549-4687

Kjell Hansson
Information Technology Officer
Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille (TPB)
SE-122 88 Enskede / Sweden
Phone: +46-8-399350
Fax: +46-8-6599467
E-mail: kjell.hansson@tpb.se / hansson@ibm.net


NOTE: This should be a fun hands-on presentation demonstrating many different systems for playing, presenting, and using DAISY Talking Books!

Absolute requirements of any International standard are the needs for platform independence and interoperability. The DAISY Standards for Digital Talking Books is an example of both platform independence and interoperability. In this session we will demonstrate DAISY Digital Talking Books on a variety of players and with software packages. The same digital information (CD-ROM) will be passed from one machine to another and demonstrated on those machines. The difference in the approach to the playback interface will be highlighted. The additional interoperability feature of braille production from the DTB data will be demonstrated.

Platform Independence

While many people consider Windows the only operating system out there, in truth, this is only one of many outstanding systems in use in the world today. It is dangerous to put too much faith into any one system. For this reason, platform independence is a necessary component of a system that intends to stand the test of time. The DAISY Consortium libraries and organizations around the world do not want to put their valuable information into a format that may be gone tomorrow. Any International standard should take into consideration the various specifications and make sure that any system can take advantage of data produced on a variety of platforms. Many different aspects must be considered: character sets, file names, paths and directories or folders and the internal notation must be considered to develop a system that is platform independent.


It is easy to produce data that will only work with one playback device. Many vendors want this to happen. This "locks" you into their system and gives the vendor an opportunity to set their own price. This is not what the DAISY Consortium wants to see happen.

Interoperability means that many systems can work together in a competitive relationship. For end users of DAISY books, this means that they will have a choice in the playback hardware or software they select to read DTB. We have a variety of products that use the DAISY DTB to deliver the books or to produce the information.

DAISY Playback and Presentation Products

While the ability to produce DAISY type books is itself platform independent the playback hardware and software must also be robust and operate on a large variety of hardware types and operating systems.

Plextalk ™ by Plextor

The Japanese company Plextor started in 1994 to develop a CD-ROM based player for digital talking books. The CD-ROM discs created by the DAISY system are compatible with Plextalk, so the users can take full advantage of all the benefits and index information that DAISY has to offer. Plextor company have announced sale of their new and modified Plextalk machine in April 1998. This version is very much built on the knowledge and user inputs from extensive user testing. The machine is designed to accept a upgrade CD-ROM to ensure interoperability with the evolving DAISY Standard.

Victor ™ by VisuAide

VisuAide is a Canadian based company that has worked in the disability field for more than ten years They are working with the DAISY Consortium to develop a portable playback device. The model on display at the CSUN conference accepts DAISY books on CD-ROM. The player will accept the DAISY 1.0 specification and the new HTML and SMIL DAISY 2.0 specification. The interface is currently in French and English and is planned for other languages. The unit has a high-tech and professional look. The system is upgradable through a system CD-ROM, so new software and interoperability support can be added. The unit is a "caddy-less" unit designed for students and professionals.

Playback 98 by Labyrinten and TPB

TPB sponsored the development of Playback 98. Labyrinten has developed this software package designed for use on a standard Windows multimedia computer. The software is designed for students and professionals for their reading of the DAISY DTB. TPB is making this software available at no charge through a free download. The use of this software allows the student or professional to search the DAISY DTB and the display makes it easy for students and professionals to integrate with their colleagues.

WebSpeak ™ & Sigtuna Browser ™ by Productivity Works

In addition to the portable units described above, and Windows based Playback 98 the DAISY Consortium through its member organizations have supported the development of a non-visual, self-voicing, web browser. Initially Recording For the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D) worked with Productivity Works to extend their product, "WebSpeak" to work with early implementations of DTB. The Japanese Society For the Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (JSRPD) initiated a major project, code named "Sigtuna" to bring the Internet closer to all persons with disabilities.

JSRPD sponsored the addition of Japanese character support to the WebSpeak product. With a Japanese synthesizer, WebSpeak is now enabled for Japanese speaking users. This browser has been named the "Sigtuna Browser" and JSRPD has make this available at no cost through Internet download. The Sigtuna Browser supports the DAISY file specification and can be used in Japanese or English to read DAISY books. Of course the Sigtuna Browser can be used to surf the Internet as well.

Sigtuna Phone

Sigtuna phone is another project of JSRPD in conjunction with Productivity works. This software allows users to call into a site and access the Internet through their touch-tone telephone. This browsing system also is compatible with the DAISY system. The same human recordings are streamed to the telephone through the standard phone system.

Braille translation

In addition to the playback devices for Digital Talking Books, The data is perfectly suitable as input to braille translation software. To demonstrate this, we have provided CDs to prominent developers of braille translation software. They have written software to import and translate the data into braille ready files.


The variety of playback devices, the software players and browsers, the telephone access, and the braille translation utilities clearly demonstrates that the DAISY standards are platform independent and are operating on many different systems used in the world today.

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