By Claire Reilly

SYDNEY, NSW: In the lead up to the switchover to digital television in Australia, consumer electronics brand Bush Australia has announced the launch of the new Bush Talking Set Top Box, the first of its kind to be made publicly available in Australia.

Designed to assist the elderly and those with vision impairment, the Set Top Box uses text to speech technology to make menus, help screens and electronic program guides simpler to navigate.

The box also features an Audio Description mode that broadcasts commentary on movements, expressions and body language on televised programs, as well as a key learn mode that gives voice prompts to users to assist them with using the features of their remote control.

“In May it received a Highly Commended Award at the Vision Australia Making a Difference Awards,” said a Bush Australia spokesperson, “having benefited immensely from the consultation process undertaken with Vision Australia, Media Access, and the Government’s Digital Switchover Taskforce which has resulted in a number of features being added to the product.”

Speaking about the new device yesterday, the Minister responsible for the digital TV switchover, Senator Stephen Conroy, said it would greatly assist vision-impaired Australians.

“For the first time in Australia, vision impaired people will be able to enjoy significantly enhanced benefits of digital television,” said Senator Conroy.

“This kind of technology has been developed in other countries, however, no talking set-top box was available in the Australian market until now. [It] coincides with Queensland Disability Action Week and marks a significant achievement for the Government and industry to make digital TV accessible to all Australians.”

The Talking Set Top Box was trialled as a part of the Federal Government’s Household Assistance Scheme, which was set up to provide free help for maximum-rate pensioners in the making the switch to digital television – a program that has assisted 50,000 households in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland so far.

“The talking set-top box trial was designed to test this innovative technology with vision impaired Victorians,” said Senator Conroy. “I am delighted to see this initiative result in the commercial release of a talking set-top box to the broader Australian community.”

“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that no-one is left behind in the switch to digital-only television,” he said.

The Bush Australia Talking Set Top Box.