Long-awaited talking digital TV set-top boxes have finally been made available for sale in Australia, after a lengthy testing and trial period. The boxes are not yet confirmed as part of the Australian Government's Household Assistance Scheme for the digital TV switchover, but their newfound commercial availability brings them closer to inclusion in a subsidised roll-out.
Talking set-top boxes from Bush Australia and Hills Industries were trialed by vision impaired and disabled users as part of the Digital Switchover Taskforce's testing period, and the Bush talking set top box is now available for purchase in the Vision Australia online store for $199. Vision Australia and Media Access Australia were involved in the testing of talking set-top box products in Australia, which have been available in the UK since mid-2010.
Senator Stephen Conroy, the government's Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, announced the availability of the set-top boxes in an online press release today: “For the first time in Australia, vision impaired people will be able to enjoy significantly enhanced benefits of digital television. This kind of technology has been developed in other countries, however, no talking set-top box was available in the Australian market until now.”
If the talking set-top boxes are approved for use in the digital TV switchover, they will likely be included in the regional Queensland switchover taking place before the end of 2011, as well as subsequent roll-outs. Regional Victorians have already been involed in the talking set top boxes' trials: “The talking set-top box trial was designed to test this innovative technology with vision impaired Victorians,” said Conroy. “I am delighted to see this initiative result in the commercial release of a talking set-top box to the broader Australian community.”
Australia's hearing impaired citizens are also being assisted during the digital TV transition, with a series of AUSLAN videos explaining the procedure. Over 50,000 digital set top boxes have been installed as part of the government-subsidised digital TV switchover process. According to the DBCDE release, 82 per cent of Australian households have already converted from analog to digital TV.