2002 Conference Proceedings

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Takuya NISHIMOTO, Kyoto Institute of Technology, Japan,
Takayuki KAWASAKI, NASA Inc., Japan,

1. Introduction

Using internet we can easily send broadcast information at the personal level, but today, on internet, text and images are mostly used. This creates a problem for the visually impaired person who cannot use the graphical interface. In the disabled communities, we need media for the residents to share information, connect with each other and give a sense of self-reliance to the individuals.

Learning the keyboard is difficult for visually impaired, because the blind users are forced to learn the touch-typing operations before the lessons about the PC itself [1]. Our hope is that the disabled people may find enjoyment in creating their own self-styled radio programs that reflects their own interests and may act as a support group for each other.

Because the Internet itself is changing rapidly and ADSL or broadband connection has become available in every home, communication is not limited to text and still images anymore. This has created a gateway to allow a more creative expression to reach the hands of the visually impaired.

Our concept is to promote the spontaneous sharing of information by means of voice media. In doing so, we would like to introduce the radio program format. We would like to focus on supporting tools needed to create the radio programs, which are to date, very limited.

The second section of this paper describes the support tools we are designing. The third section describes the details of our implementation. The fourth section states the summary and shows the problems that need to be solved.

2. Support tools for personal radio broadcasting

We are currently making a tool called Radio Builder, which will instruct the disabled user as to how to create a self-styled program successfully [2]. The dialog system will act as a director and give step-by-step instructions in an easy manner.

Radio Builder is an authoring tool for radio program, not the streaming or encoding technology. Radio Builder can be used with the existing technologies for encoding or playing streaming audio. Radio Builder is limited for archived radio programs currently, because the live streaming programs are difficult to make at the personal level.

Using this system, there are three stages necessary in making a radio program. In the first stage, the user creates the structure of the program based on the pattern library. Same structure is commonly used within a series of programs, such as daily programs that would announce activities in the local community's health issues, and meetings, for the disabled persons.
Usually the radio program consists of 'frames.' For example: * beginning frame with opening music
* first frame introducing the main topic to be discussed, followed by the shorter sub-topic
* second frame which will again have a main topic
* end of the program which would announce future programs, etc. with closing music

In the second stage, the user prepares for the recording of the program in a certain series. The user prepares for selecting the music and deciding which topic would be discussed in each frame.

Finally, in the third stage, the recording itself is directed by conversation between the computer and the user. This is an example of how the computer and the user may interact:

C(Computer): Welcome. We will now record program No.1 in the series A. First we will check the microphone. Please say 'check 1-2-3.' And listen to the playback.
H(Human): Check 1-2-3.
C: [playback] Check 1-2-3.
C: If the microphone is working, we will now continue. Please select microphone recheck, or go ahead.
H: Go ahead.
C: First we will record the beginning frame. Please start with the brief greeting, followed by a summary of the topics you will be discussing today. Time allotted: 1 minute. Please press a key to begin the opening music. SO LET'S GO.
H: [press a key and talk]
C: Very good. Well done. Would you like to play back, record again, or go ahead?
H: Go ahead. [This procedure will be repeated again to the form the second frame and introduce both main topics and sub-topics.]
C: Thank you. The recording is finished.

After the third stage has been completed, the recorded program can be played back as an entire program, or sent to the server for publishing. A web page for introducing the program is created automatically and the user can announce the address of the page or the program itself to everyone.

3. Implementations

The first and second stages are preparations for recordings. In such works, information management is important, because radio programs may use much music, sound files, news and topics. Many people living in distant places may collaborate to make a series of programs, so information must be shared effectively.

Radio Builder is currently designed and implemented as a web-based application, so the users can manage and share information easily on the web. At the server-side, Java Servlet, JSP and MySQL are used for implementation. Both Windows and UNIX can be used for the server platform. The user can login to Radio Builder service and select the menu items. The menu includes:
* create a new series
* select an existing series and make a new program
* work with an existing program which is not finished
Pattern library and music library are available within the service.

Third stage, which includes recording, is guided by the dialog between human and machine. This stage is designed as a VoiceXML application [3], which includes speech synthesis, speech recognition, and recording function. The web server of Radio Builder generates the dialog scenario.

The user will launch the VoiceXML browser as a helper application of the web-browser, and uses the dialog system. Recorded sound files are submitted to the Radio Builder server using HTTP. We are developing a VoiceXML browser for Microsoft Windows and Speech API. Japanese speech recognition and synthesis engines from IBM are currently used.

The information in the Radio Builder database is used for creating web page that introduces the program after the creation is finished.

The user of this system is not limited to the disabled persons, but visually impaired users can use the web service with screen-reading software. The VoiceXML browser used for recording is self-voicing software.

4. Conclusion

In this paper, we showed our concept of promoting the spontaneous sharing of information by means of radio broadcasting. We also pointed out that the dialog system can effectively act as a director in creating radio programs and showed that web-based application and VoiceXML can be used for such purpose.

In the future, we intend to improve the Radio Builder after finishing the implementation. Large-scale operating tests with various users including visually impaired persons are also necessary. Using VoiceXML implementations for telephony, the user can record the talk using telephone.

It is also important to extend the possibilities of personal broadcasting. To utilize the broadband or mobile internet services, we must be free from the conventional idea of commercial broadcasting. Non-profit activities are expected to give the disabled people enjoyment in creating their own self-styled radio programs and support for each other, using the tools we are creating.


[1] T. Nishimoto, M. Araki, Y. Niimi: The Practical Side of Teaching the Elderly Visually Impaired User to Use the E-Mail, HCI 2001 (UAHCI), Vol.3, pp.963-967 (2001).
[2] T. Nishimoto, S. Miyagawa, T. Kawasaki: Design of Support Tools for Internet Broadcasting, Technical report of IEICE, WIT2001-7, pp.35-40 (2001) (in Japanese).
[3] http://http://www.w3.org/Voice/.

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