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Inclusive Design: designing products for users of all abilities

BT, University of Cambridge, Royal College of Art

Until relatively recently, consumers were typically viewed as being either able-bodied or disabled, with products being designed for one category or the other.

But as the demographics of the developing world shift and consumers’ capability levels become increasingly varied, such divisions are unhelpful.
Inclusive design, an approach to product design pioneered in the UK by Cambridge University, the Royal College of Art and BT seeks to address this issue by taking into account users of all ages and capabilities.

Developed through a long-term collaborative partnership, the concept of inclusive design has led not only to a world-leading academic reputation, but also a range of practical tools for industry.

Since 2005, the partnership has been working alongside BT to develop training courses and educational material as part of a major initiative, initially sponsored by the government, to raise awareness of inclusive design across the UK.

As part of this programme BT has sponsored the development of the Inclusive Design Toolkit, a web-based tutorial and knowledge resource targeted at business leaders and designers. The toolkit, now in its second edition, has been rolled out to all BT product commissioners and design project managers, and all of BT’s new products and services are now designed to be inclusive.

Visualise : providing multimedia content to local spectators

University of Bristol, ProVision Communications, Maniac Films, BT, 3CRL, U4EA, International Sportsworld Communicators

From motor-racing and music festivals to golf tournaments and athletics meetings, large-scale public events typically rely on a huge infrastructure of cameras, production and transmission equipment to broadcast the action to the wider world.

While in terms of atmosphere there’s still no substitute to actually being at the event, the viewer at home often gets a far more detailed and in-depth view.

In an effort to make this variety of multimedia content available to local spectators, partners working on the VISUALISE project are developing technology that will use wireless technology to provide in-ground spectators with information, analysis, replays and video feeds currently only available to those watching sport on TV.

Multimedia content could enhance spectators experience of live events

Multimedia content could enhance spectators experience of live events

Funded by the Technology Strategy Board, the project has made a number of key breakthroughs; developing both the technology to provide video and data to in-ground spectators at sporting events on mobile handsets, as well as a delivery method for multicast live video.

Robust multicast delivery of real-time video content is extremely challenging due to the reduced scope for adaptation and retransmission of lost data. It had never been reliably achieved over WiFi. Multicasting enables much more efficient use of spectrum and enables VISUALISE to scale to mass-audience outdoor applications.

The group has identified numerous applications for the technology. For example, spectators at a motor race would be able to experience all key events (overtaking, pit stops, crashes, action replays), personalise the service to follow a team or individual, or make use of other features such as advertising and betting.

A feasibility study carried out by ProVision Communications has demonstrated how this technology could be ported to mobile devices such as the iPhone and trials have been carried out with a major US networking company.

Smart Talk Freeview Box : the world’s first talking freeview digital box

RNIB, Harvard, Pixsan, Loquendo, TW Electronics

Identifying that the switchover from analogue to digital television in the UK would result in accessibility problems for the UK’s estimated two million blind or partially sighted people, the RNIB commissioned a project to look at the accessibility issues surrounding digital switchover.

The result - following close collaboration with UK consumer electronics firm Harvard International (the owner of the Goodmans and Grundig brands), is the SmartTalk Digital Box, the world’s first talking product for the UK Freeview market and a product that its developers claim will deliver the benefits of digital television to all consumers regardless of age or disability.

he partnership also involved Bradford-based broadcasting software firm Pixsan and communications specialist Loquendo, which supplied the device’s innovative Text to Speech (TTS) technology.

This system allows consumers to interact with the latest viewing technology through user-friendly speech-enabled feedback and to access programme information, schedules, screen and audio settings all by means of user-friendly speech feedback. Consumers can also control the way the text on screen is read out to them with the ability to change the volume and level of detail.

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