Friday, August 24, 2012

Netflix and Amara - Crowdsourcing Subtitle Possibilities

Amara, formerly Universal Subtitles, and Netflix have teamed up to crowdsource subtitling some of Netflix's offerings, according to an email sent out by Amara. The concept is still in beta and it's not yet known if Amara subtitles will actually show up on Netflix-streamed shows and movies.

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Photo via Victor1558 on Flickr.
They're also providing the ability for you to help, if you want to lend your captioning expertise (not just in English). There's a form here to fill out with your information, including different languages you know, if you want to help with the project.

It sounds to me as though Netflix is trying different options to satisfy any obligations it has under the ADA and other accessibility laws. As Netflix expands into other countries, it will also have to consider international laws as well. Crowdsourcing sounds like it could easily help take some of the burden off Netflix while also allowing members of the public to contribute to a worthy cause.

(via Amara and GigaOM)

Monday, August 20, 2012

LSTN Headphones Provides Hearing Aids for Children in Need

A pair of LSTN Headphones with cherry wood.
Today I learned about LSTN Headphones, a company based in Los Angeles, CA which sells environmentally-friendly headphones made from exotic woods.

A pair of LSTN Headphones costs between $57 and $95, and they claim the sound quality is excellent, but that's not why I'm particularly interested in them.

You see, for every pair of LSTN headphones purchased, LSTN provides a pair of hearing aids, batteries, molds, ear cleaning and antibiotics to a deaf child in need. They do this as partners with global charities who operate clinics in small villages.

I think this is really great. As they say on their website, "the production of hearing aids only meets 10% of global need." They even provide mosquito nets, because malaria is a leading cause of hearing loss.

Note: I wasn't contacted or sponsored by LSTN in any way to make this post. I just think they are doing something really amazing for children in need.

(via Complex)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Oticon Streamer and Motorola CLP1040 Radio

Communication at work has always been something important to me, whether it be being able to talk on the phone to call my coworkers or just being able to hear them in a crowded, noisy room. Today I want to talk about a new communication device we have at work and how I am able to use it. Hopefully my experience can assist other Bluetooth hearing aid wearers.

Vocera and Motorola CLP1040
Me with the Vocera (left) and Motorola CLP1040 (right)
I work in a public library, which is not huge, but is rather spread-out and very busy. People are not always by their phones when they need to be reached and it can be hard to track someone down physically, especially if we are busy.  We  started off with a solution to this problem called Vocera, which is marketed at the healthcare field. The Vocera is like a walkie-talkie, but you can call people directly rather than contacting everyone on the same channel. Someone standing next to you could hear both sides of the conversation.

Recently my library decided to switch to Motorola CLP1040 radios. These are more like walkie talkies where your voice is heard by everyone on the same channel. They utilize the main device as well as a paired Bluetooth headset. This means someone will only hear one side of the conversation, as the wearer hears others through the headset.

It also meant I was going to have to come up with a solution, because I can't wear a Bluetooth headset. Or rather, I'm already wearing a Bluetooth headset (my hearing aids), and I don't want to give them up!

Oticon Streamer
Me with my Streamer device.
That is where the Streamer came into play. My hearing aids, manufactured by Oticon, can pair with the Streamer device, allowing me to hear phone calls and music through my hearing aids.

However, getting the Streamer to work with the new radio was not as easy as I was expecting. I expected it to pair as easily as the Streamer pairs with a cellphone, but that was not the case. For awhile it looked as though the devices were never going to connect.

The IT department and myself looked at several options, including physically connecting the Streamer and the radio via an audio cable (which did not work), getting another device like a portable speaker phone, or a special cable.

Eventually, though, we were able to get it to work. It required taking the Streamer and the radio far away from me (and my hearing aids), and pressing a lot of buttons on both devices. When they were returned to me, everything was properly paired, and I could hear what I needed to hear from the walkie talkie.

When in "phone call mode" with the Streamer, there are two settings. One mutes the audio surrounding the wearer to allow them to focus on the phone conversation. The other is supposed to leave all audio at the same volume so that you can monitor your surroundings as well as the phone call. (I'd just like to take a moment to be amazed at technology. Not only can I get phone calls streamed directly into my ears, I can selectively mute what I'd rather not listen to. How cool is that?)

I experienced some trouble using the latter setting. In a library setting, assisting patrons, I needed to be able to hear them as well as the walkie talkie if someone started speaking. Even on the setting where nothing should be muted, everything seemed too quiet and I experienced some difficulty hearing patrons. Not to mention, I felt fairly disconcerted, as all of the surrounding noise I was used to was very quiet. I took a look at the Streamer manual and experimented a little with the volume buttons. Turning the Streamer off and on again appeared to do the trick. Hopefully, I don't have to fumble with it too often at the public desk.

I think this whole project is still a work in progress and it remains to be seen how well it will work when everyone is using the walkie talkies (right now, we are still testing everything out). However, I am really glad that I am able to use the same thing as everyone else, just with one added accessory.