Comcast Unveils Voice-Guided TV Interface for Visually Impaired Customers

Comcast has released a voice-enabled television user interface that it says will revolutionize the way its Xfinity TV customers, especially those who are blind or visually impaired, navigate the X1 platform.

The "talking guide" features a female voice that reads aloud selections like program titles, network names, and time slots as well as DVR settings and on-demand options. The feature will be available to all X1 customers in the next few weeks.

"The talking guide is as much about usability as it is about accessibility," said Tom Wlodkowski, vice president of audience at Comcast, in a statement. "We think about accessibility from the design of a product all the way through production and this feature is the result of years of work by our team including customer research, focus groups and industry partnerships. For people like me who are blind, this new interface opens up a whole new world of options for watching TV."

The talking guide says what's on the screen as the viewer navigates the "guide," "saved," "on-demand," and "settings" sections of X1 and includes details like individual program descriptions and ratings from Common Sense Media and Rotten Tomatoes to help viewers decide what to watch. Future versions of the feature will include functionality within the "search" section of X1 and additional personalization settings like rate of speech.

X1 customers will be able to activate the talking guide on their existing set top box by tapping the "A" button twice on their remote controls. The feature can also be turned on via the "accessibility settings" within the main settings menu.

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